DAVIE, Fla. – Florida State put a wrap on its penultimate practice before Tuesday’s Discover Orange Bowl showdown with Northern Illinois at Sun Life Stadium, and Seminoles’ coach Jimbo Fisher is quite happy with the way his team has gone about its business.
“It was a good Florida day today; a bit warmer than we’ve had the last couple of days,” Fisher said, at the conclusion of Saturday’s workout on the Nova Southeastern campus. “The kids responded very well. I love our conditioning, the tempo of practice was excellent, the execution has been very good. I’m very anxious to watch us play. I hope we play close to the way we’ve practiced. I’ve been extremely pleased. We haven’t practiced like this for a while.”
With bowl week winding down, the 13th-ranked Seminoles (11-2) will hold their final full workout Sunday morning, then have a walkthrough Monday at the stadium.
When asked why he thought the ‘Noles have been sharp throughout the first three workouts in South Florida, Fisher didn’t hesitate with an answer.
“I think it’s time to play,” he said. “You haven’t played for a while. You have a chance to play in a BCS (game). You understand your opportunity and you want to do well, represent yourself, your school and your family well. I just think they’re excited about being here; excited about winning a championship.”
Saturday’s practice also included the drone of crowd noise being pumped over the loudspeakers at the field. That made the crisp and precise practice even more impressive.
“Sometime when you do that (practice with crowd noise) … it actually makes you concentrate more,” he added. “Sometimes they focus more because they know you’re doing that and so it locks them more in a game mode and sometimes their execution really goes up on days like that.”
With the 16th-ranked Huskies (12-1) anxious to make their mark as the first MAC team to reach a BCS game, Fisher was asked what was left in terms of preparation for the game.
“The last 48 hours is very critical, that we really dot I’s and cross T’s and understand what we’re going into the game with; how we’re going to call it and when we’re going to call it,” Fisher said. “We’ll have the kids totally prepared, so there are no surprises. … Hopefully they’ll relax, execute and don’t get nervous about it.”
Players moved by former ‘Nole Smith’s testimony
For the majority of the team, Saturday began with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast at Miami’s Jungle Island, where former Seminole great Sammie Smith shared his testimony with players from both FSU and Northern Illinois.
After starring at tailback from the Seminoles from 1986-88, the Miami Dolphins selected Smith with the ninth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Smith was out of the league after four seasons and ran into legal problems, serving a seven-year prison sentence for drug possession and distribution. With the help of former FSU coach Bobby Bowden, he won restoration of his civil right from the state of Florida in 2010 and since then has spoken openly about his troubles and his faith.
Smith shared his life’s struggles and testimony.
“His ability to relate to us as players that actually play the same place he did, makes his testimony even stronger,” said FSU senior All-American kicker Dustin Hopkins, who also participated in the FCA event. “Given the struggles he had with his drug situation when he was in the league and how troubles in athletics … can affect a player and his psyche for years after when you are confronted with adversity. When he mentions things like that you can relate to it. He speaks truth and it means that much more.”