PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Did the Florida State Seminoles win another ACC football title, their 12th in 14 years, in 2005? Absolutely. Did they play in another BCS bowl game? For sure. But there was a dash of bitter in the sweet.
Yes, FSU won the ACC, but backing into the title game with three conference losses isn't the way they're used to doing it.
Running back Lorenzo Booker might have divined the reason why Florida State stumbled from its perch as the hands-down grand poobah of the ACC.
"I think at first a lot of the guys wanted to live off what guys like Peter Warrick, Warrick Dunn, Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke did, as opposed to saying that we need to make our own legacy," Booker said. "We felt like, since we were at Florida State, that means we're automatically going to the national (title game)? Uh-uh, that's not going to happen.
"We've gotten a hold of the younger guys and let them know that if we don't do it, it's not going to get done," Booker added. "It has to get done by us."
With a renewed dedication to the running game, the Seminoles want to return to the old, blow-the-door-off-the-hinges days when they ruled the ACC without question.
These days, that's not necessarily the case. Florida State ended the 2005 season at 8-5 after losing a triple-overtime Orange Bowl heartbreaker to Penn State. Some think Clemson, coached by FSU coach Bobby Bowden's son Tommy, finally has the firepower to overtake the Seminoles as the ACC's Atlantic Division leader.
"For them to choose a team like Clemson to win, that's legitimate," Booker said. "I wouldn't argue with it. I wouldn't agree, but I wouldn't argue with it. We're the face of the ACC, that's the fact. If you pick a team like Clemson or Virginia Tech or Miami to win, that's a legitimate pick, but when you think of the ACC you think of Florida State."
And this year, when people think of Florida State, the Seminoles hope they think of a running game. FSU wants to focus more on the ground this season, using Booker and Antone Smith to shoulder the load.
Booker said the offensive line, including former Lehigh High standout Mario Henderson, performed well in the spring, exploding off the ball and creating good running lanes for the backs.
That also should help sophomore quarterback Drew Weatherford, who set an ACC freshman passing record with 3,220 yards, but threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns (18).
The defense, 14th in Division I in total defense in 2005, should be powerful again, especially with the addition of true freshman Myron Rolle, who wowed spectators in Florida State's spring game with a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown.
If the pundits want to anoint Clemson as the Atlantic Division's top dog, FSU linebacker Buster Davis said that's fine. Being the underdog doesn't hurt.
"Being the underdog is good and bad," he said. "But most of the time it's good. If you're the top dog and you lose, then you fall and fall and fall. I'd rather raise the team."