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2 posts from October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012

ACC Suspends Head Official From FSU-Miami Game

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Florida State fans make no secret of their disdain for the officiating in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Blown calls, non-calls and bizarre calls have all been the norm- in the minds of Seminoles fans, at least- for a couple of seasons.

So it will be with some satisfaction that 'Noles fans read this. Per an earlier statement by ACC commissioner John Swofford:

"The entire officiating crew that presided over the Florida State at Miami game will receive letters of reprimand, while David Epperley (crew chief and referee) has been suspended for one game for failure to properly administer the 10-second runoff rule at the end of the first half."

After Saturday night's FSU-Miami game- a game that was so poorly officiated even ABC commentators Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger commented on it- Swofford and the ACC had no choice but to act.

You cannot let your officials become a national joke. Whether or not that's already happened is debatable, but in the minds of many fans around the conference (including those in Durham and Blacksburg this week) that ship has already sailed.

The entire crew got reprimands, but the crew chief was suspended for one of the most egregious brain-farts in recent memory. Under 10 seconds in the half, after a Florida State penalty, Jimbo Fisher had to explain to referee David Epperley that he could negate the obligatory ten-second run-off with his last remaining timeout. 

Even then, another official on the crew had to confirm it for him. By that point three quarters of Miami's team was already in the tunnel and the game was delayed temporarily just to get the teams back on the sidelines.

Dustin Hopkins ended up connecting on a field goal to put FSU up 13-10 at the half, a field goal that wouldn't have occured had Jimbo Fisher not been aggressive in correcting Epperley. 

"They were running off the field, and I screamed at him that I had a time out and they can't take [time] off," said Fisher. "That's why I saved the timeout for penalty situations like that. You can do that. That's a rule. Finally, they had to bring them back." 

Credit Jimbo Fisher for not having an anuerism right there on the sideline.

This still won't be enough for many Seminoles fans, but it's more than the ACC has done in the past.

The ACC also suspended UNC LB Shakeel Rashad for a cheap-shot on Duke WR Conner Vernon. Rashad ran off the sideline as a late sub, hit Vernon (who was split out wide) in the back and then got in position. It happened right in front of the head linesman, Vernon had to be helped off the field and there was no call made.

On Monday morning the ACC tried to rectify that too. 

FSU Leading Rusher Chris Thompson Done For Season with ACL Injury [Updated]

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You could tell the moment that Jimbo Fisher walked into his Monday morning press conference that Chris Thompson was done for the season. Thompson, who is absolutely beloved by his coaches and teammates, tore his ACL on Saturday night and will miss the rest of the year. 

"I'm hurt for Chris," said Fisher, who had a tough time hiding the fact he was clearly devestated by this injury.

This is a huge blow to Florida State's team. As Jimbo Fisher said, Chris was the guy who everyone protected. The linemen, Lonnie Pryor, the receivers, every single one of them to a man will tell you that they take extra pride in protecting Chris. 

This football team is very tight, Lonnie Pryor and Devonta Freeman both refer to Thompson as a brother. He's been integral in bringing Florida State back from mediocrity at the end of the Bowden era, he's a senior leader and after coming back from a broken back last season, he was also a huge inspiration to his teammates.

Guys seek Thompson out for advice, look to him for stability when games start to go badly and off the field he's one of the most high-character players on the Seminoles team.

He was also leading the Seminoles in rushing (687 yards, 7.5 ypc, 5 TD).

"Considering the year he'd been having, it's tough," said EJ Manuel. "I feel bad for him, he's like a brother to me. His locker's right across from me, we talk every day. I just texted him last night to tell him I love him."

Now the Seminoles are going to have to absorb this loss like they did with Brandon Jenkins earlier this season. Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. are both more than capable of taking up Thompson's slack. Freeman lead the team in rushing last year and scored twice after Thompson left the Miami game, James Wilder has been one of Florida State's best surprises this year.

The issue with Thompson's loss will not be replacing the production, Thompson was Florida State's most dynamic offensive player, but the Seminoles are loaded with skill players who can step in and make big plays.

The issue will be replacing Thompson's leadership.

Lonnie Pryor will have to take over as the leader of the running back corps, while EJ Manuel and guys like Rodney Smith and Bryan Stork are going to need to step up and assume even more of a leadership role on offense.

Florida State will weather this, but you can't help but feel for Thompson. FSU will explore options to give Thompson another year of eligibility, but he may out of luck. 

"Knowing Chris he'll be resilient, he'll rehab, come back and have a great career," said Manuel. "Chris is a better person than a football player."

And that's what makes the injury so sad. As a reporter you're supposed to maintain objectivity, but guys like Chris Thompson make that very difficult. Thompson is just a good person, he's humble, thoughtful and you can tell just by the esteem his teammates hold him at that it's not an act. 

No word on when CT will have surgery, Florida State will wait for the swelling to go down before scheduling anything. 

[UPDATE] Saw Chris this evening eating dinner with teammates and family. In just another sign of how resilient he is, Thompson was laughing and smiling and seemed to be in good spirits. He can't have surgery until the swelling goes down, but it also shows what kind of commitment he has to his teammates that he's eating the team-meal two days after a devestating personal setback.

At the same time, part of the reason he's there may be he needs to be around his teammates. I'm reminded of something Thompson told me earlier this season when he was talking about how his experience fighting through his broken back was helping him mentor Mario Pender (who suffered a season-ending groin injury in summer camp).

"I'm just going to have to keep him up, the same way as when Devonta [Freeman] missed the spring," Thompson said. "That's my job as a senior running back to keep freshmen up, to keep their spirits up, because I know that he's saying that's he's alright right now and I said the same when I was hurt, but when you really get alone and think about it, it's really going to hit him."


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