Florida State safety Justin Bright celebrates after recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 69-3 victory.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher says a coach often sees the most improvement in his team between the first and second games of the season.
It may be difficult for him to gauge any improvement this Saturday when his seventh-ranked Seminoles host Savannah State (0-1) in their final tune-up before starting Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“We can’t worry about the opponent,” Fisher said Monday. “I hope we can do the things we have to do.”
Savannah State, a struggling Football Championship Subdivision program, has won just one game in each of the past two seasons. The Tigers were hammered 84-0 Saturday at No. 19 Oklahoma State while the Seminoles were on their way to a 69-3 win against Murray (Ky.) State.
“I have a problem, personally, saying, ‘OK we’re going to win this game by a bunch of points,’ ” Fisher said. “We don’t want to ever embarrass anybody or anything of that nature.”
Florida State was supposed to be playing West Virginia this weekend, but the Mountaineers backed out of the highly anticipated matchup earlier this year.
A West Virginia native, Fisher said he was disappointed when the Mountaineers pulled out of their agreement when making a move from the Big East to the 10-team Big 12 Conference.
“They had to do what they had to do,” Fisher said. “That would’ve been a great ball game. That’s always been a little rivalry.”
Fisher’s predecessor at Florida State, Bobby Bowden, was the head coach at West Virginia when Fisher first began following the sport as a youngster.
Savannah State accepted Florida State’s $475,000 guarantee to fill in for the Mountaineers.
“It ain’t about you don’t want to play anybody,” Fisher said, noting the Seminoles’ 2012 non-conference schedule also includes Florida and South Florida. “You’ve got to find teams to come here. You don’t get a dime for going on the road.”
Fisher conceded that it’s more difficult to evaluate players’ game performances in matchups where they are heavy favorites — and the Seminoles are huge favorites Saturday.
“Hopefully we do get better,” Fisher said. “I hope that we will continue to grow each week.”
Quarterback EJ Manuel said the Seminoles have plenty of room for improvement regardless of the opponent.
“We’re not going to look down on them because they lost by 84,” Manuel said. “They just got embarrassed. They want to come here and do something about it.”
And Florida State will be near full strength for its last tune-up before opening ACC competition the following weekend, Sept. 15, against Wake Forest.
Defensive end Brandon Jenkins was scheduled for a precautionary MRI on his left foot and tight end Nick O’Leary was nursing a thigh bruise, but otherwise the Seminoles escaped the opener healthy. Their status for Saturday was uncertain, but Fisher said he hoped to have starting defensive Anthony McCloud back for the game.
The Seminoles ranked seventh nationally in rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense and also total offense after the win over Murray State.