JACKSONVILLE — For the Florida State Seminoles, the Gator Bowl was about acknowledging the past and, with the emotional win in coach Bobby Bowden's swan song, celebrating the present.
But Friday's game was about anticipating the future, too.
Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, Bowden's designated heir for the past couple of seasons, is set to take over. He signed a five-year, $1.8 million contract that goes into effect Tuesday.
Although his focus was to give his boss a proper send-off, Fisher couldn't help but be excited about the long-term implications of the Seminoles' 33-21 win against West Virginia.
"This is a young football team that's learning how to win," he said, "and it's a team that has a chance to be real good if they focus and concentrate."
• Freshman quarterback EJ Manuel continued to gain valuable experience in place of injured star Christian Ponder. (Ponder has filed paperwork with the NFL to receive an evaluation of his draft prospects, but he's expected to return for his senior season.) All Manuel did was throw for 189 yards, rush for 70 and win the MVP award.
• Sophomore running back Jermaine Thomas had another big game, 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns, as did sophomore receiver Jarmon Fortson, who overcame an early drop to finish with four catches for 73 yards, including a leaping, one-handed grab for 29 yards.
• Freshman cornerback Greg Reid had two punt returns for 37 yards and one kickoff return for 69 yards on special teams. And he broke up a pass on a third down midway through the fourth quarter. FSU held on fourth down.
• Sophomore linebacker Nigel Bradham (four tackles, one sack), redshirt sophomore cornerback Dionte Allen, redshirt freshman safety Nick Moody, redshirt freshman defensive end Toshmon Stevens and freshman defensive end Brandon Jennings all played well in the second half.
"We had to win for Coach Bowden," Reid said, "and we wanted to have fun and build toward the new season."
Fisher was back in Tallahassee on Saturday, meeting with some of the assistants he's bringing in to help re-establish the Seminoles; he expects to add a defensive ends coach in the coming days. The new staff then will try to cap off what is shaping up as a top-shelf recruiting class that could provide the defense with differencemakers.
Bowden, for one, is confident that can happen.
"They can get that; they'll get that," he said of Fisher's staff. "I think this crew that he's going to bring in here are going to be good recruiters. … He will hire well, and he will recruit well. I think he will do good."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.