Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said after a loss to North Carolina on Oct. 1, that the defeat would be the point where he found out what kind of team he had.
With wins in seven of their final eight games, the 10th-ranked Seminoles (10-3) have their fourth straight double-digit win season and sixth in Fisher's seven years at the helm. Friday's 33-32 over No. 6 Michigan in the Orange Bowl also gave FSU its first postseason victory since the 2013 BCS national championship game against Auburn.
While Fisher was happy with his team's mental fortitude, there are times when he wishes they would make it a little easier on him. Three of the Seminoles' wins came after they trailed by 10 points or more, and the Orange Bowl victory came after they squandered a 17-3 first-quarter lead.
"As we know, nothing comes easy. Nothing comes easy in anything, and we can make it that way, I know that," Fisher said.
For the first time in two years, Fisher will go into an offseason knowing that he is set at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois showed improvement throughout the year as he completed 58.8 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Francois was recruited as a dual-threat quarterback but he was much more of a pocket passer. He also took plenty of hits as Florida State allowed 36 sacks, which were tied for sixth most by a Power Five conference team.
The Seminoles started five different offensive line combinations. Most will return next season but left tackle Rod Johnson, who has been voted the Atlantic Coast Conference's best lineman the past two years, hasn't decided if he will declare early for the NFL draft.
With running back Dalvin Cook declaring for the draft on Saturday, the passing game will be counted on more heavily next season. Junior Travis Rudolph led the team in receiving for the second straight year but sophomores Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate made steady improvement late in the year. Murray had two touchdowns in the Orange Bowl.
Even though Cook is departing, Fisher is not bereft on talent in the run game.
Sophomore Jacques Patrick had three games over 50 yards while Cam Akers, who is considered one of the country's best running back prospect, announced last Tuesday he will attend FSU and will be an early enrollee when classes begin on Jan. 9.
The defense struggled early in the season, allowing 30 or more points in four of their first five games. But Charles Kelly's unit rounded into form late in the season.
"Yeah we had growing pains at times, that's going to help those players develop and it made us a better football tea," Kelly said.
The Seminoles led the country in sacks with 51. They are losing their leader on defense with the graduation of defensive end DeMarcus Walker, but freshman Brian Burns and sophomore Josh Sweat combined for 15.5 sacks.
In the secondary, sophomore cornerback Tarvarus McFadden tied for the national lead in interceptions with eight. Sophomore safety Derwin James played in only two games due to a knee injury but is expected to return next season.
This season also taught the Seminoles that they can't start off the season slow. Next season's opener will be their biggest test yet when they face Alabama in Atlanta on Sept. 2.
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