- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel came out of the locker room in the third quarter after having his injured left shoulder examined, backup quarterback Clint Trickett approached him and said, “I’m going to try to do this for you.”
“I know he wanted a national championship,” Trickett said. “We all do.”
Following Florida State’s 23-13 loss to No. 1-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday night, that dream is likely on hold for another year, but there were plenty of encouraging signs that the program might not be too far from it under coach Jimbo Fisher.
Florida State was defeated. It was disappointed. But unlike last year’s lost to Oklahoma, these Seminoles were not crushed. Nor did they have anything to be embarrassed about.
Florida State proved on Saturday night that it has closed the gap with the nation’s elite and it was deserving of its No. 5 ranking and the preseason expectations. The team that was embarrassed a year ago in Norman with a Heisman hopeful at quarterback almost won in Tallahassee tonight, with its backup quarterback.
“I’m disappointed we lost because we had a great opportunity, we had chances to win that football game,” Fisher said. “But I’m also very encouraged that our kids, we can compete at the highest level. I truly believe that.”
Trickett, who completed 7 of 15 passes for 134 yards, one touchdown and one interception, helped the Noles make their case. Trickett, a lanky redshirt freshman who hadn’t thrown a collegiate pass until this season, was sacked five times and kept getting up for more. Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis had knocked Manuel out of the game, but even though Manuel had been cleared to return to the game, Fisher liked what he had seen from Trickett.
Florida State trailed the entire game until Trickett tied the game at 13 with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Greene. Trickett let the ball fly, hoping as it sailed through the air that it wouldn’t be picked off. It wasn’t. Instead, it gave the Noles a legitimate chance to win the game with its starting quarterback sidelined.
“We know we can compete up there with the top guys and that we are some of the top guys,” Trickett said.
And they can be even better.
Florida State had only 27 rushing yards. The offensive line allowed six sacks. The quarterbacks combined to throw three interceptions.
And yet thanks in large part to two goal-line stands from Florida State’s defense, which held the Sooners to one touchdown in five trips to the red zone, the score was tied with 9:32 left in the game.
“It just shows potential,” said safety Lamarcus Joyner. “Those guys played great. You want to win games like this, but the way we played tonight shows potential and that this program is rolling in the direction Coach Fisher and this team wants it to.”
Even before Florida State took the field on Saturday night, linebacker Vince Williams said, the Seminoles knew they were going to play better than they did a year ago.
They were right.
“That was a completely different team that went to Norman compared to this team,” Williams said. “I still feel like we left something out there, some things we could’ve taken care of, but the scary part is we’re still getting better. It’s the third game of the season -- you guys have only seen the tip of the iceberg of what this defense is capable of.”
It’s only a matter of time until the Seminoles reach their full potential.
1dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna