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66 posts from October 2012

October 22, 2012

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

Florida-state-seminoles

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."

October 21, 2012

Florida State 12th in BCS, Massey Computer Poll Ranks FSU 40th

Florida-state-seminoles

The BCS rankings came out a little earlier tonight and the Florida State Seminoles moved up two spots in the rankings from 14th to 12th.

The top five are Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame.

This morning the other polls came out and the two BCS polls of note, the Harris and Coaches' polls each had Florida State at 10th. The AP had the Seminoles 11th.

The computer polls on the other hand are not buying the Seminoles as contenders.

While those polls had less of an impact this go-round than they did last time, the Seminoles are still being weighed down by their computer average. FSU was ranked an average of 29th last week, this weekend the computers have moved them into the top 25 and they are ranked an average of 21.75 by the computer polls.

It may have been a lot worse if the BCS didn't drop a team's best and worst computer score. Massey has Florida State as the 40th best team in the nation.

Who does the Massey computer poll think would beat FSU? Mid-major teams like Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo, Tulsa and the mighty Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. All five schools are ranked ahead of Florida State in the Massey computer poll.

Now, even with Florida State's road struggles, with their embarrassing loss to NC State and with their cupcake schedule (which nobody ever mentions originally included WVU, though that's much less impressive these days), does anybody actually believe one of those teams would beat the Seminoles?

I don't know the exact formula that Massey uses to compute their rankings, but essentially it comes down to this: every team starts at zero, margin of victory doesn't matter, win-loss records count and so does strength of schedule. How they all average it out is a bit of a mystery (as in not stated anywhere), but given the other parameters you get the idea that strength of schedule is highly emphasized. In fact, on the Massey website, their rankings list just two categories, record and strength of schedule.

If you needed a perfect example of how a computer can miss the point, look no further. 

Perhaps maybe even a better illustration of just how unique the Massey poll is, FSU is 40, the team they beat last night, Miami, is 41. To the Massey poll, even despite Florida State winning on the road by two scores, even despite one team being 7-1 and one team being 4-4, there is a neglible difference in their rankings.

And neither program has anything on a handful of unranked (save Ohio) mid-majors.

I'm beginning to understand why Jimbo Fisher doesn't like computers.

Going Polling: FSU 10th in Coaches', Harris Poll, 11th in AP

Florida-state-seminoles

The polls are all out, with the exception of the BCS, and Florida State's standing in them remains about the same, the Seminoles continue to sit on the fringe of the top 10.

The coaches poll left the Seminoles alone, Oregon State jumped FSU while South Carolina dropped behind them and they hung tight at 10. In the AP, Florida State moved up a spot from 12th to 11th. Meanwhile, the Harris poll dropped the 'Noles two spots from 8 to 10 with Oklahoma, Oregon State and USC all jumping over FSU.

We'll have a better idea of what things look like when the BCS comes out later today, but given the Seminoles' strength of schedule and some of the other teams that have been rising up the polls, odds are Florida State ends up about where they were last week, around 14.

All three polls featured the same top five, Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Kansas State and Notre Dame. Currently the only other ACC program in the polls is Clemson (14/13/13), Duke and NC State received votes but not enough to crack the top 25 in any poll.

I'll be back later tonight with the BCS rankings as well as the weekly "Thoughts From the Morning After..." column, though admittedly it will be more like "Thoughts From the Evening After..." by the time it goes up.

Keep checking back.

 

Wrapping Up: FSU 33 Miami 20

Florida-state-seminoles

"That was a classic Florida State-Miami game, wasn't it?" said Jimbo Fisher as he lead off his post-game press conference.

It was, and then it wasn't.

It was an extremely physical, tightly-contested game that showcased much of the athleticism on both squads. But by the same token, neither team exactly looked like the squads of old. Florida State committed 12 penalties for 121 yards and fumbled five times, losing two. 

On the other sideline, Miami was hardly opportunistic.

Al Golden started his presser by saying, "we need to recruit better."

Miami gave Florida State their best shot tonight, but Golden is on to something there. The Miami teams of old, the '87 team that the Hurricanes honored before the game for instance, would have blown the doors off of Sun Life Stadium if Florida State had handed them this many mistakes. The Seminoles practically gift-wrapped this game for the Hurricanes in the first half and yet come intermission, the Seminoles lead the game 13-10.

That's both a sad statement about the state of the Hurricanes, and also kind of a redeeming point for Florida State.

"I told them listen, 'we went out on the field and did about everything wrong you can do, but you overcame it and have the lead'" said Fisher. "That says something, to me that's your sign- as crazy as that sounds- I think it's a competitive football team that's growing up, learning to fight through some things. Some days you just don't have it."

Florida State didn't have it today on offense. Early miscues hurt them and even when they did get going, there were never humming at full speed like they're capable of.

What Florida State did do was dominate the line on both sides of the ball. The 'Noles went for over 200 yards rushing and held Miami to less than 30 yards. Even despite losing Chris Thompson; Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. took up the slack and helped Florida State pull away in the second half.

Florida State may not have had it, but they perservered.

"I thought it was very big for our kids to overcome what they did today," said Fisher. "There's too many good guys on our team, too many leaders, too many good human beings to sit there and everybody look at the each other and not do anything.

"I told them sometimes you may like each other too much. Every now and then when you're on the field- like I used to tell them- you'll be my buddy off the field when we're on the field we're competitors, if I need to get on your tail, I'm going to get on your tail."

Credit FSU's leaders for getting things under control. There was a lot working against Florida State and though they didn't start strong, they finished that way.

"We know we're on the road, this is a rivalry game, this is their house," said LB Telvin Smith, who had a fantastic day on defense. "You've got to play the team, the coaches and the refs. You've got to play them in a hostile environment in front of a hostile crowd also. We knew were going to get some crazy calls or whatever, you've just got to stay focused and make plays."

Florida State was on the receiving end of some truly awful calls. Jimbo Fisher made little secret of his displeasure on the sideline and though he was diplomatic post-game, it wasn't tough to tell that he was going to be making an ACC mixtape for Mike Kelly and sending it in. 

But credit FSU for keeping their poise in spite of the bad officiating. Credit FSU for keeping their poise, period.

FSU didn't have it today, but they perservered and picked up a big win. Now the 'Noles are 7-1 heading home to host Duke for homecoming. 

I'll have more for you later, keep checking back for updates...

The Lighter Side of Things: Semi-Streaker Strikes

Jpeg

I've got plenty of analysis coming up for you tonight, but I wanted to start with something that may not have been highlighted on television, but definitely cracked everyone up at the stadium.

In the first quarter some guy, likely innebriated, climbed out of the stands, walked through the FSU sideline and ran right onto the field mid-play.

That lead to one of the most unique officiating conferences I've ever seen where an ACC official had to make the call that "the fan on the field didn't affect the play."

The fan pulled his shirt off around the 20, ran into the endzone and lead security on bit of a chase before getting absolutely decimated by one of the guards. He was arrested and is probably sobering up in a Miami jail somewhere as I'm writing this...

Lonnie Pryor, always a great quote, was more than happy to provide his take on the streaker.

"No, I wasn't out on the field I was sitting there laughing like, 'what is this guy doing?'" said Pryor. "We saw him come in, I was like, I was like... I'm not going to say what I was thinking."

Then he caved and told us.

"There's a crazy white man running out here, you don't know what that guy got, so I'm sitting on the sideline like I better get away, so I was just laughing but he got tackled really hard. I was laughing but I wasn't going out there touching him, I wasn't messing with him."

Definitely one of the funnier things I've seen as a reporter.

October 20, 2012

Rapid Reaction: FSU 33 Miami 20

Florida-state-seminoles

That was not a pretty win, but a win is a win. Especially against the Miami Hurricanes on the road. Florida State fans need to give Miami a lot of credit. They really did give FSU their best shot and had the Seminoles on the ropes early. 

I already mentioned just how abysmal Florida State played in the first half, I highlighted it in the halftime update and it's going to be my sidebar in tomorrow's paper. Florida State could not have played much more poorly over the first two quarters than they did.

Things got better in the second half, but marginally so. Florida State still finished the game with over 100 yards in penalties (12-121), fumbled the ball five times and made a whole range of mistakes that absolutely stymied their offense.

Once again, Florida State's offense looks like it forgot to board the bus in Tallahassee. The Seminoles came into the game averaging 23 points per contest on the road, they were about on par today (save a late Devonta Freeman touchdown to put them up to 33).

Defensively though, Florida State was solid. Stephen Morris was uncomfortable throughout most of the day and Miami's offense could only muster 228 yards, 75 of which came on a meaningless final drive down three scores in the fourth quarter.

For all intents and purposes, FSU limited Miami to just 175 yards, including just 29 yards rushing. The 'Noles knocked freshman phemon Duke Johnson out of the game and stopped Mike James from getting going. They also notched four sacks and picked off Stephen Morris. 

The Chris Thompson loss is probably the most disconcerting part of this game, while the Seminoles will undoubtedly have to answer for their inconsistency on the road, losing Chris Thompson means the Seminoles could potentially be without their most explosive weapon down the stretch.

You can't help but feel for Thompson, who ended the day on the sideline with crutches. After breaking two vertebrae in his back last season, he fought back and has been huge for FSU this year. Football notwithstanding, Thompson is just a good kid who works hard and is a leader on the Florida State team both on and off the field. He would be a huge loss.

The Seminoles really didn't blow this one wide open until the second half when their depth and experience helped them pull away from the Hurricanes. Down 13 with about five minutes left the Hurricanes finally imploded with penalties before a Bjoern Werner sack iced the game.

Devonta Freeman punched in another TD to put FSU up 33-13 at the end of the game. A late Hurricanes TD made it 33-20, but the games was done by that point.

There's a lot to break down tonight, Florida State's penalties, Devonta Freeman's homecoming performance, Chris Thompson's injury, the Seminoles' offensive road woes and whether or not Jimbo Fisher burst a blood vessel yelling at the officials.

Halftime: FSU 13 Miami 10

Florida-state-seminoles

Florida State just dodged a bit of a bullet in the first half. Nine penalties, 82 yards, five fumbles, two lost. Yet right now the Seminoles lead the Hurricanes 13-10.

I said earlier that Miami was going to come out swinging and boy did they ever. Florida State made plenty of mistakes but the Hurricanes came out amped up and ready to go. It was 10-0 within the first seven and a half minutes. 

Florida State started to get a grip on it after that though. The Seminoles have now reeled of 13 straight points and are going to get the ball to start the second half.

The last ten seconds of the second quarter were one of the most uniquely blown moments I've ever seen. ACC officials ended the half on a ten second run-off after a Florida State penalty, ignoring the fact FSU had a timeout that they could use to stop said run-off. After Jimbo Fisher explained how to officiate football to the refs, they called the Hurricanes back out of the tunnel and Dustin Hopkins booted a field goal.

Very strange end to the half.

Chris Thompson is Florida State's big casualty for today. After catching a 32-yard pass down the sideline, Thompson's foot got caught in the turf as he was tackled and he's done for the rest of the day with a bum left knee. You can't help but feel for Thompson, he's been through so much that for him to go down like this is almost cruel. Hopefully Thompson will be back this year.

As for the the second half, Florida State needs to continue to take hold of this game. Miami is scrappy, they're giving the 'Noles their best shot, but FSU couldn't have played a worse first half of football and they still lead. If the Seminoles can come out and play like that team that wears Garnet up in Tallahassee some Saturdays, they should have no problem in the second half.

But it would not behoove the Seminoles to let Miami hang around in this one. Miami can make a big play here or there, they haven't yet but that potential is certainly there. The Noles need to make sure that Miami isn't a big play or two from the lead in this one or they may end up with another result like NC State.

Statistical Leaders

Passing: EJ Manuel (12-19, 134)

Rushing: Chris Thompson* (7-47)

Receiving: Chris Thompson* (2-47)

*Thompson will not return

Pregame: FSU at Miami

SunLife

Just got into the box at Sun Life Stadium to set up for the start of the Florida State-Miami game at 8 PM. We're a little over two hours from kick and the gates haven't even opened up, but the parking lot is packed and there should be a solid crowd here today.

Florida State and Miami come into this game with vastly different outlooks. This is a big game for Miami, they can gain a big in-state win against a rival and improve their record to 5-3 on the year. Miami, quite frankly has an awful lot to play for today.

Florida State on the other hand really doesn't stand to gain a whole lot from winning this one outside of bragging rights. Don't get me wrong, FSU-Miami is always a big game, but for Florida State this is more about taking care of business, winning one on the road, than it is about an all-important season-defining one-off with a rival.

I fully expect the Canes to come out on fire and give the Seminoles their best shot out of the gates. How Florida State comes out of the tunnel will determine a lot. The 'Noles are three score favorites in this one and as the game continues and they start getting into depth, Florida State will begin to gain a solid advantage.

But Miami is a better team than Seminoles fans give them credit for. They can make a play or two and if they can get a little bit of momentum, they could make a game out of this.

For Florida State, if they play the game they're capable of and don't try to go above and beyond their responsibilities, they shouldn't have a problem winning this one. But this is a trap game, Florida State could trip up if they don't have the right mindset. It all comes down to the Seminoles' temperment tonight. 

If they've prepared well all week and come out focused, this one will go Seminoles. If not, if Miami can score early and make it tight, Jimbo Fisher might have some questions to answer Monday.

TV: ABC

Announcers: Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (color), Heather Cox (sideline)

Three Things to Watch For: FSU at Miami

Ncf_u_miafsu_576

We're getting ready for Florida State and Miami to kick things off and as usual, I have three things to watch for in tonight's matchup. As I've said all week, this is a matchup that is as much about Florida State playing their own game, as it is about playing Miami. 

The Seminoles have been a much different team on the road in 2012. At home, they're 5-0 averaging 55 points per game. On the road they're 1-1, averaging 23 per contest and as of yet, agaisnt USF and NC State, they have not looked like the same football team as they are at home.

That needs to end today or else an opportunistic Hurricanes team may just pull off the upset. 

Here are three things to watch for...

What is Florida State's energy level out the gates?

Count on Miami to show up for this one ready to go. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Canes even come out a little over-amped. But Florida State cannot let the Canes outdo them in regards to intensity. If Miami gains confidence, if they start fast and can reel off a few good possessions, that could be trouble. Florida State will need to play all 60 minutes, but the first ten may be the most crucial. If Florida State can come early and a get a jump on the 'Canes, they may be able to put this one away in the first half. But if they come out flat and let Miami get the jump, who knows what could happen...

Florida State Cannot Let Up...

The Seminoles should have learned their lessons in the NC State game, that you have to play 60 minutes and can never let up. But that will be especially important today. This Hurricanes team doesn't quit like the Miami teams of old. Yes, the Hurricanes were taken to the woodshed by Kansas State and Notre Dame, but Al Golden's Canes didn't quit. They're definitely not going to quit tonight either. Remember last year? Florida State seemed to have the game in hand in the fourth quarter and a late flurry of action by the 'Canes almost made it a game at the end. Miami will bring that same fight to the game tonight, so the Seminoles need to be prepared to play all 60 minutes.

What Does Florida State's Offense Do Tonight?

The Florida State defense has not really been the culprit on the road, it's been their offense. Tonight, in a semi-hostile environment (lots of Seminoles here too), the offense will again be tested. At home, as I mentioned earler, the Noles have been as potent as any offense in the entire country. On the road, FSU could only muster 30 against a fairly weak USF team and then scored just 16, including no second-half points at NC State. 

So how are they going to attack? This Miami defense is on pace to be the worst in school history, but that means very little considering the NC State secondary was still smoldering when the 'Noles got to town and they were ineffective throwing on the Wolfpack most of that night. I'd look for Jimbo Fisher to come out and try to establish control of the lines first. The down-the-field shots will be there for Florida State, but if they can come out and pound the ball early and force Miami to move more men into the box, EJ Manuel should be able to finally have the kind of big game on the road fans have been waiting for.

I'll be back all night with updates on the blog and you can follow me on twitter too...

October 19, 2012

Baseball: Garnet Beats Gold in Fall Game

FSUbaseball

Quick update for you via a Florida State press release. I am on the road heading to Miami for tomorrow evening's rivalry game at Sun Life, but this evening at Dick Howser the baseball team squared off in its annual fall game and the garnet team edged out the gold team 8-5.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for a lot of guys and they showed a lot or perseverance,” said head coach Mike Martin via an FSU release.  “We had a couple of mistakes that you can’t have and expect to win.  But what impressed me is the guys would turn around and make a good defensive play."

Brandon Johnson (brother of Sherman), Billy Strode and Evan Geist combined to go seven inning for the Garnet team, they held the gold team to just five runs over that period while striking out nine and walking just one. The Garnet team also won the first of the two Fall games on Thursday by the same score, 8-5.

On Friday night, it was Joze Brizuela who was the big hitter, Brizuela went 4-7 with a double, 2 runs and 3 RBI's. Scott Sitz took home MVP honors after pitching two innings and hitting a double.

Florida State is looking to replace a very talented outgoing class that featured several draft picks and a ton of leadership. This will be on of Mike Martin's most challenging seasons as he has a very young, inexperienced squad playing this season.

For what it's worth though, Martin was very encouraged after the Seminoles' spring season.

“I like Knief; I thought he had some good swings,” said Martin in the release.  “I thought Marcus Davis, before he got hit looked very good at the plate.  Some of the guys struggled a little bit yet still played pretty well from the offensive standpoint.  Ladson Montgomery – I thought he had some good at bats.  I think the whole thing is when you’re looking at as many people as I looked at tonight, you think of one thing and that’s defense.  John Sansone made a very nice play when Gonzo threw the ball up the line.  He caught it and tagged the guy out.”  

“It’s been a very good fall for us – that’s the whole thing,” added Martin.  “It’s been a good fall.  We have tried to do more this fall than we have in the past because of the young guys.  We just tried to play like we’ve done all fall and that’s just do the little things – move runners when we had the opportunities.  A couple of mistakes changed the game but it was still a good ball game.” 


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