TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher's seven-year run of perfection against Miami is over.
He won't be able to hand out state championship rings, not after Saturday's 24-20 loss to the No. 13 Hurricanes.
A program that began the season ranked No. 3 in the country is 1-3 for the first time since Bobby Bowden's inaugural season (1976). And considering the unresolved issues that resurfaced Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium, FSU could have more problems than losing to Miami for the first time since 2009.
Things could get worse.
"(We're) 1-3. I understand that …" Fisher said. "There's a great season out there to be had."
But FSU has shown little through four games to suggest that it can have a great — or even good — season.
FSU's receiving corps somehow remains a liability in a state teeming with speedy athletes. The Seminoles don't have another go-to talent beyond banged-up Wharton High alumnus Auden Tate, who scored what could have been the winner with 1:24 left. And after four-star sophomore Keith Gavin left with an injury, the reasons for optimism are even bleaker.
The Seminoles couldn't convert on scoring chances, where Fisher's teams usually shine. FSU advanced inside the UM 40 five times in the first half; it scored three points. That's a death blow in a rivalry that has been decided by one score each of the past four seasons.
The offensive line that was dominated by Wake Forest last week gave up four sacks and nine tackles for a loss. Much of the credit belongs to a Hurricanes front seven that's among the best in the country. But how much can FSU improve next week before facing a top-20 Duke defense, or by the Nov. 11 game against Clemson?
FSU's defense, meanwhile, still isn't consistently playing up to its five-star talent. UM didn't get a first down until the final play of the first quarter, didn't cross midfield until the second half and didn't get positive yards on 20 of its 30 first-half plays.
Then the second half started, and FSU looked as shaky as it did two weeks ago in a home loss to North Carolina State.
The 'Noles let a quarterback making his fifth career start (Malik Rosier) throw for 220 yards in the final two quarters and lead two 75-yard scoring drives in the fourth. They let 5-foot-9, 186-pound Braxton Berrios squirt open for two touchdowns. And they let Darrell Langham — a redshirt junior with three career catches — score the winner over preseason All-America cornerback Tarvarus McFadden with six seconds left.
While the Seminoles' three losses are all against top-25 teams, their lack of noticeable improvement in those areas doesn't inspire much confidence, especially with the remaining schedule. Boston College, Syracuse and Delaware State are as close to guaranteed victories as this team gets. That still leaves FSU two wins away from being bowl eligible.
Duke isn't a pushover on the road. The 'Noles couldn't stop Rosier or N.C. State's Ryan Finley, so what hope do they have of slowing reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville? If FSU can't beat North Carolina State or Miami at home, beating defending national champion Clemson in Death Valley seems far-fetched. Fisher is 6-1 against the Gators, but then again he was 7-0 against UM until Saturday, and FSU must travel to Gainesville.
Fisher ticked through some of the positives Saturday. True freshman quarterback James Blackman threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. True freshman running back Cam Akers ran for 121 yards. FSU held Miami to only 83 rushing yards.
It's all true — but it still wasn't enough, at home, against a program FSU owned.
"We didn't make all the plays," Fisher said. "They made one more. At the same time — there's no reason to hang your head after that football game."
Maybe not. The worst could still be coming.
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.