TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — With a showdown against No. 4 Clemson on the horizon, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is using the bye week to see if his 13th-ranked Seminoles can sustain the momentum they have regained.
Florida State dropped to 3-2 with a 37-35 loss to North Carolina on Oct. 1 but has rebounded with wins at Miami and against Wake Forest last week.
Even with the recent wins, Fisher still doesn't feel his team has come close to playing its best football of the season.
"We've got to play a little better at times. We've been practicing better so hopefully we'll continue to grow," he said.
The Seminoles (5-2, 2-2 ACC) have put together strong halves against Miami , No. 23 Mississippi and South Florida, but they have yet to put together a full game. Opponents have scored first five times and FSU trailed by double digits at halftime four times, including both losses.
The defense, which allowed an average of 35.4 points and 438.4 yards in the first five games, has given up just one touchdown the past six quarters. The unit also held Miami (276) and Wake (252) under 300 yards.
A big reason for the improvement has been the defensive line. Derrick Nnadi, who was limited the first month of the season due to a foot injury, has eight tackles in the past two games while DeMarcus Walker is second in the nation in sacks (8.5).
An injury-riddled secondary has also seen a couple younger players step in and play better. Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden leads the ACC in interceptions with five and Ermon Lane has made a quick transition from wide receiver to safety.
Walker said the recent performances from the defense have been encouraging and that everyone is doing a better job of communicating on the field.
Even with the recent improvements, the Seminoles have allowed 43 plays of 20 yards or more, which is second-worst among Power 5 conference teams.
Offensively, Fisher is hoping that the week off allows him to fix pass protection problems that has allowed freshman quarterback Deondre Francois to be hit 15 times and sacked nine times. Some of the issues are due to Francois holding on to the ball too long but others can be attributed to breakdowns by the offensive line and running backs missing key blocks.
"It's not so much getting beat physically. It's a little bit of technique. We're out of place or over setting guys, but it's nothing we can't fix for the next weekend," left tackle Rod Johnson said.
Francois has performed well though despite often being under pressure. He has been responsible for 13 touchdowns (including 10 passing) with only three interceptions.
"I like the way he's played with his toughness, made good decisions for the most part," ''He hasn't had many turnovers but the pick (against Wake Forest) was a poor decision, just got to throw it away."
Florida State has won 11 of the past 12 games against Clemson at Doak Campbell Stadium, including the past four. However it is likely to go into the game in a rare position — a home underdog.
Plenty of time will be spent watching film on Clemson's Deshaun Watson, but Walker said when they play the Tigers and their star quarterback on Oct. 29, it won't be any different from other years.
"We're going into this game worried about ourselves. We're not worried about anything else," Walker said. "He's a great quarterback and he does some great things. We just have to game plan for Clemson."
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