TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel has seen better days behind center. Tying a career high with three interceptions and fumbling the ball on a hard, skull-rattling hit, the senior probably wishes he could forget the final home game of his collegiate career.

Our Orlando Sentinel associate reporter, my sidekick here in Tallahassee, Brendan Bures, has this really solid read on Manuel following Saturday's 37-26 FSU loss to Florida. This is definitely worthy of your perusal.

So are the rest of our FSU-Florida stories that can be found here. You can check out both versions of our game story (one on the UF perspective, another on the FSU perspective), a notebook on FSU's turnover problem, an opinion piece by columnist Mike Bianchi, a story on FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner and a few videos. Check it all out.

For now, enjoy Brendan's read.


By Brendan Bures

Orlando Sentinel correspondent

TALLAHASSEE -- The sun was fading beyond the horizon as EJ Manuel ran onto Bobby Bowden Field inside Doak Campbell Stadium for his last time as a Florida State Seminole.

He jogged past the shaking pom-poms of the cheerleaders and ahead of the snapping lenses of the photographers near midfield to meet both his fathers: his flesh and blood, Erik Manuel Sr., and his figurative one, Jimbo Fisher, the man who put just as many expectations on his prodigal son as any proud, hopeful father would.

It was Senior Day. Emotions were high. They were so high that as Manuel posed for a few pictures before hitting a U-turn and running back through the North end zone tunnel to prepare for the ballgame that would soon begin, an eye welled up. A tear tried to escape. He kept rubbing his face, right below his eye, trying to keep it dry.

Perhaps there was dust floating in the air that landed in his eye.

Before the game, he said he wanted to walk out of the stadium for the last time with a "W" on FSU's ledger. As Manuel dressed for the show that was about to begin, his teammates in their normal pregame rituals, could see that, too.

"I saw a guy who wanted to win his last game in Doak,” receiver Rashad Green said. “I saw in it his eyes: he wanted to win. Who can blame him? He’s a senior. I wanted to win it for him.”

It's possible to think of EJ Manuel’s last home game as a Hollywood moment; something played out in a movie. Following that line of reasoning, one must believe Manuel’s heart sank after he read his role. The game felt scripted. Instead of a tale about a Seminole triumph, it was actually a Seminole tragedy. It's lines were written with a Gator hero in mind. Naturally, Manuel couldn't play that part.

In the first half, he played the role of the luckless antithesis. He thew interceptions in each of the first two quarters, essentially limiting himself to barely eight minutes of first-half time in order to lead the Seminoles' offense. 

He had hoped the rest of the acts in this performance would play out differently. It was, after all, his final game at Doak; his final chance to strike down the doubters and rise above them.

As poorly as the Seminoles played in the first half, he wouldn’t let them go into halftime scoreless. 

After a pair of run plays that gained two yards and ran a minute off the diminishing clock, Manuel hit Kenny Shaw for 10 yards and a first down. Then, he hit another pass, and another, and another. The yards racked up, but the Seminoles still remained out of field goal range as mere seconds flashed on the clock.

Florida's defense then decided to lock down the sidelines, refusing to grant Manuel another quick catch that could take a receiver out of bounds to pause time. Seeing that, Manuel decided he would simply sprint into the gaping hole in the middle of the field. He gained 23 yards on the play before spiking the ball with five seconds left on the second-quarter clock. With an assist from his gold shoe-wearing kicker Dustin Hopkins, FSU did not enter the locker room at halftime scoreless.

The Seminoles trailed 13-3 after a 50-yard Hopkins field goal.