ACC title revives championship atmosphere for Seminoles

dscott@charlotteobserver.comDecember 2, 2012 

Florida State’s road to the Orange Bowl took a quick and successful detour through Charlotte over the weekend.

“Coach Jimbo (Fisher) always talks about (how) you can’t drive a car looking in the rear-view mirror because you end up crashing yourself and (getting hurt),” said Seminoles defensive back Karlos Williams, whose late-game interception helped preserve 13th-ranked Florida State’s 21-15 victory against Georgia Tech in Saturday’s ACC championship at Bank of America Stadium.

“But the team focused and we always look forward. We steered correctly right here to the ACC championship and we won.”

The victory against the Yellow Jackets (6-7) gave the Seminoles (11-2) their 13th ACC title (first since 2005), sending them to the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1. Multiple media reports Sunday night said the Seminoles will face Northern Illinois.

“I’ll be extremely proud of this 10, 15 years from now,” said Florida State senior quarterback EJ Manuel, who completed 16-of-21 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Tech. “I’ll be able to say I helped our team get back to where we needed to be as far as the BCS conversation, the national championship, and things like that. I want to see greatness from here on out.”

The Seminoles had national-championship aspirations heading into this season. But a 17-16 loss against N.C. State in October put those on ice. Florida State’s other loss came last week, a 37-26 defeat against rival Florida.

But Saturday’s victory puts Florida State into a BCS bowl and, just as importantly, helps re-cultivate a championship atmosphere around the program that had been slowly diminishing over the past several seasons.

“You’ve got to win a conference championship before everybody can say you’re back,” said Fisher, who took over for former coach Bobby Bowden in 2010. “You’ve got to win a conference championship before you win a national championship. And now our kids understand what it takes and how hard it is.

“But they’re champions.”

So the trip to North Carolina was successful for the Seminoles, who are back in their home state and headed for a New Year’s Day game in south Florida.

“We drove perfectly to Charlotte, North Carolina,” Williams said. “And we had a very good time.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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