TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Bobby Bowden never, ever beat the Florida Gators on Bobby Bowden Field.
But Jimbo Fisher has.
And he did it on his first try.
Florida State 31, Florida 7
Jimbo Fisher 1, Urban Meyer 0.
Looks like a lot of people owe an apology to former FSU president T.K. Wetherell, who was lambasted unmercifully last season for making the tough-but-right decision to force the iconic Bowden into retirement and naming Fisher as his successor.
Not only did Fisher end the pain and suffering of a six-game losing streak to the detested Gators, he did it with the most decisive win the Seminoles have had in this series in 22 years. And at almost exactly the same time the Seminoles were dancing and prancing at midfield, they found out, too, they would be playing in the ACC Championship Game by virtue of Maryland's 38-31 victory over North Carolina State.
"It's been a heckuva day," Jimbo said.
This might be the best day the Florida State football program has had since Jenn Sterger enrolled and Jeff Bowden resigned. The losing streak to UF started six years ago in Ron Zook's last game as Florida's coach the same day FSU christened its stadium "Bobby Bowden Field." Zook exited the field on the shoulders of his players in that final game. Now, at the end of his first season, Jimbo Fisher exited the field with his face covered in joyous tears.
Fisher and senior quarterback Christian Ponder met at midfield afterward, opening up their arms and tear ducts in an emotional embrace. And then Fisher searched for his wife, Candi, and tearfully hugged her, too. And then he yelled for his 9-year-old son "Trey! Trey!" who ran to his mother and father for a heartwarming group hug.
Fisher then thrust both fists into the air as he walked off the field amid colliding, cacophonous chants of "A-C-C!" and "F-S-U!"
"When Christian came up and hugged me and he had tears in his eyes, I realized what it meant to him and those seniors," Fisher said of the tearful scene after the game. "You coach for those kids to have that feeling.
"What those seniors have been through the last four years the controversy, the academic (scandal), the coaching changes I'm just so happy for them right now."
Don't kid yourself, the Seminoles desperately needed this victory over Florida even more than they needed a trip to the ACC Championship Game. Not because of any national rankings or BCS bowl bids. But for themselves, their fans, their own sense of pride and well-being.
Urban Meyer's iron-fisted grip on Sunshine State football supremacy is over.
Jimbo Fisher's may just be beginning.
The significance of this surreal Saturday in Tallahassee cannot be overstated. Seriously, has the fate of football in this state ever changed so drastically and so suddenly?
The Noles, in only one season under Fisher, are already the most steady program in the state. Miami, after Saturday's embarrassing loss to South Florida, may be on the verge of firing coach Randy Shannon. The 7-5 Gators, enduring their first five-loss regular season in more than two decades, are a program Meyer admitted Saturday must now completely "rebuild."
Who would have ever thought the Seminoles, thrashed by a combined score of 127-37 in the previous three games against UF, would now have more stability than the Gators? There will be those who try to explain Florida's season as the Gators simply suffering from a massive post-Tim Tebow hangover. But I disagree. The Gators have lost more than their quarterback; they have lost their identity.
Here we are 12 games into the season and the discombobulated Gators, after a season-low 64 passing yards passing Saturday, are still using three quarterbacks and have no idea what they are doing on offense. The Noles may not be the most explosive offense in the nation, but they at least know who and what they are on offense..
Fisher knows who his quarterback is this year (Ponder) and he knows who his quarterback is next year (sophomore EJ Manual). In contrast, Meyer has no clue who is quarterback is on the next play, let alone next season.
It's no wonder longtime FSU fan Ernie Reiter yelled triumphantly from the stands as Fisher left the field Saturday: "We're back, Jimbo! We're back!"
Meanwhile, FSU senior cornerback Ochuko Jenije paraded around the field, showing off a stuffed Gator head to panting, ranting, war-chanting fans.
The message was clear.
The Gators have lost their head.
The Seminoles have found their way.