The Big Board: FSU's road woes


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- EJ Manuel grew up a fan of former Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller. Manuel remembers Miller draining a dramatic 3-pointer to silence a raucous New York crowd at Madison Square Garden, then holding a finger to his lips to further taunt the distraught fans.

That's how to win a road game, Manuel said.

"When we get an opportunity to do that to an opposing crowd, that makes us feel good," Manuel said.

The Florida State offense had its chances last week in Tampa -- officially its first road test of the season. A handful of big plays turned the tide of a close game, and Manuel's Seminoles had little trouble keeping the USF faithful quiet throughout the second half.

But the truth is, the environment wasn't nearly as hostile as what the Seminoles will face this week. Against USF, half the stadium -- admittedly, the upper half -- was filled with FSU supporters, and the USF fans hardly rattled the veteran Seminoles.

When Florida State travels to Raleigh, N.C. this week, however, things get a little more intense.

"Everybody hates FSU for some reason," safety Lamarcus Joyner said. "I don't know what the older guys did before me, but a lot of guys seem to hate FSU."

Florida State has suffered through a long history of bullying tactics from the enthusiastic N.C. State crowd, which thanks to cramped sidelines gives fans a chance to hurl some verbal jabs -- and a few projectiles -- from close proximity. And for FSU, the on-field results have been less than impressive, too. Florida State has lost four of its last seven trips to Carter-Finley Stadium, and even its wins have been close.

With all that in mind, Jimbo Fisher is planning his regular road-game prep work this week. In practice, Florida State will pump in crowd noise through loud speakers. Players and coaches will practice calling plays with hand signals. Manuel has been instructed to call out plays in a whisper, forcing his offensive teammates to pay close attention, read his lips and watch for the ball to be snapped.

Add it all up, Fisher said, and it's not a bad way to practice.

"You'd be shocked how much that helps," Fisher said. "It makes guys quit taking things for granted and have to pay attention. They have to focus. Sometimes when you do it, you can even get better on the road."

Of course, that hasn't exactly been the case for Florida State under Fisher. Since the start of the 2010 season, FSU is 14-3 in home games and just 9-5 in games played on the road or at a neutral site. In the cozy confines of Doak Campbell Stadium, the Seminoles' offense racks up, on average, 436 yards per game. But put FSU in an opponent's stadium, and that number falls by nearly 70 yards per game.

The obvious explanation is that those hostile environments and crowd-noise distractions have taken their toll. But those numbers are also skewed just a bit.

Take a look at FSU's offensive per-game splits when we filter out games against FCS and non-AQ conference teams (which are exclusively played at home):