Manuel bounces back

FSU's starting quarterback dominates Boston College following tough loss

Updated: October 14, 2012, 12:13 AM ET
By David M. Hale | NoleNation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For six days, Jimbo Fisher sifted through the wreckage of an ugly loss, but he insists that's not where he found answers.

For a week, he'd been inundated with criticism. His play-calling had been too conservative, his offense lacked aggression, his team had been indifferent. Fisher did his best to fend off the jabs, but there were no easy answers.

[+] EnlargeKenny Shaw
AP Photo/Phil SearsFSU receiver Kenny Shaw was one of nine players QB EJ Manuel completed passes to.
So he watched film of this week's opponent, and he saw opportunities. He looked back at past games against Boston College and found inspiration. He studied the matchups, and they galvanized his resolve.

Saturday's 51-7 win over Boston College was an emphatic answer to the criticism he's heard for the past week, a dominant performance that stood in stark contrast to last week's offensive slumber against NC State. But Fisher insists, that wasn't the point.

"I'm not interested in sending a message," Fisher said. "I'm interested in winning a football game."

Winning came easily. Florida State dismantled the Boston College secondary, racking up 649 yards of total offense led by EJ Manuel's career-best 439 yards passing. Given Boston College's place at the bottom of the ACC standings, this was expected. Anything less would have only added to the onslaught of criticism aimed at Fisher.

But if a win was expected, and dominance was the standard, Fisher still found a way to make his point.

A week ago, Florida State's offense hibernated through the second half, failing to score a point as its 16-0 lead slowly slipped away. This week, Fisher's foot was on the gas from the opening drive -- a 99-yard attack highlighted by a 77-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Shaw -- and he never relaxed.

Florida State's first nine offensive plays were passes, Manuel completed four plays of 40 yards or more, and the Seminoles had matched last week's yardage total by halftime against Boston College.

The performance could easily be read as Fisher's response to the droves of critics who have lambasted him for allowing yet another season of lofty expectations dissolve against an inferior foe, if only Fisher would accept that he heard the critiques to begin with.

"As a coach, you move on," Fisher said. "We have to live in our own world."

The sentiments were echoed by his quarterback, who played it cool after the game in spite of posting the first 400-yard passing performance of his career at any level.

Manuel connected on four touchdown throws, a myriad of deep passes, and completed balls to nine different receivers. Even as Florida State's lead ballooned, Manuel kept throwing -- the complete antithesis of last week's conservative approach in which the bulk of the Seminoles' fourth-quarter attack involved an unsuccessful running game.

It was a reminder that Manuel's arm drives the Florida State offense, but like his coach, he said the game plan wasn't aimed at the hordes of concerned fans.

"I don't read the clippings. I move on," Manuel said. "I take the coaching from my coach. People can say what they want."

Whether it was by design or by chance, Florida State's response to its first loss of the season was an emphatic one.

Last week's game ended when the Seminoles' defense couldn't make a final goal-line stand. This week, FSU stuffed four straight plays from its own 1-yard line.

Last week, Manuel settled for short routes and handoffs. This week, he thrived on the big play.

Last week, the focus waned and NC State made the most of the opportunity. This week, when Boston College made its last gasp to hang with the high-flying Seminoles, Lamarcus Joyner picked off a Chris Rettig pass at the FSU 11-yard line to swing the momentum.

"You're always seven days away from being humbled," Joyner said. "It was a different mindset, a different focus this week."

The dominant win over Boston College won't quell the critics still angry about a lost chance for a national title, and it won't ensure another smooth path to victory next week in Miami.

But for a week at least, Florida State won't be defined by what it failed to accomplish. The Seminoles haven't erased the damage done a week ago, but they've at least shifted the focus to what lies ahead.

"We digested it, we understood what we did wrong, and we moved on," Manuel said. "We let it go."