- Associated Press - Thursday, December 2, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (AP) - It didn’t take Jimbo Fisher long to put his mark on the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After replacing the iconic Bobby Bowden, the first-year Florida State boss has the 20th-ranked Seminoles playing Virginia Tech for the ACC championship on Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Fisher also secured the mythical state championship with decisive victories over Miami and Florida for the first time in more than a decade.

The Seminoles (9-3, 6-2 ACC) head into title game looking to snap the 12th-ranked Hokies 10-game winning streak and secure a berth in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.

A 10-win season and ACC championship would satisfy even Florida State’s most fervent fans, who would likely be unimpressed by another one of those 9-5 seasons that have become too commonplace for them in recent years.

And Fisher knows that.

“At Florida State, the bar is always high,” he said. “You’ve got to win, that’s the name of the game. Your goal is to win championships.”

Fisher does it his way. He calls the plays, decides what coaches and players can talk to the media and what food his players can eat. Old-fashioned at heart, Fisher prefers the traditional garnet and gold uniforms at home and the gold and white on the road.

“I have to control what we do,” said Fisher, whose 5-year, $9 million contract was bumped this week with a $50,000 bonus for getting to the ACC title game. “I’ll do what I believe is right.”

It has been paying off for Fisher so far.

It was Fisher’s recommendation at the start of the 2008 season, his second year as Bowden’s offensive coordinator, that paved the way for the development of star quarterback Christian Ponder.

Fisher went to Bowden shortly before the season opener and said the more mobile Ponder would give the Seminoles a better chance of winning. Three-year incumbent Drew Weatherford, who was at the helm as a freshman when Florida State upset Virginia Tech 27-22 for the ACC championship in 2005, was benched.

It’s a decision that Fisher remains convinced was the best for the team, but still troubles him somewhat.

“It was extremely hard because I thought Drew was a very good player,” Fisher said. “Sometimes it’s not that he does anything wrong, it’s just that the people around him have to have a certain type guy back there because of their inefficiency, not the quarterback’s inefficiency.”

And Weatherford, who handled the demotion with a great deal of grace despite his disappointment, was hardly the last senior to lose a starting job.

Cornerback Ochuko Jenije, who started all 13 of Florida State’s games a year ago, played sparingly this season.

On the other hand, Fisher and his staff have found overlooked veterans in their rebuilding project.

Linebacker Mister Alexander, who largely languished on the bench for the last four years, moved past several highly recruited prospects to become one of the defense’s most productive performers under the new regime.

Freshmen moved ahead of veterans in some cases, a rare occurrence in recent seasons.

“My mom and dad told me many years ago. ‘Do what you think is right and what’s best and what you think you need to do,’” Fisher said. “Do what you think is right whether its’s popular or unpopular.”

He had to dismiss two starting players for disciplinary reasons just before the season began, including his most dangerous returning receiver.

The staccato-speaking Fisher could probably be labeled a lot of things, but indifferent wouldn’t be one of them.

“You’re going to make mistakes,” he conceded. “That’s part of being a leader too.”

Florida State, which hadn’t had nine wins in the regular season since 2003 and is two botched plays and roughly a minute away from being 11-1.

Ponder’s fumbled fake handoff inside the North Carolina State 5-yard line killed what looked like a game-winning drive in the final minute of a 28-24 loss in Raleigh on Oct. 28 and Dustin Hopkins missed a field goal with time running out that let North Carolina slip out of Tallahassee with a 37-25 victory Nov. 6.

“You seek perfection, but you’re not going to be perfect,” Fisher often says.

But it doesn’t keep him from trying.



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