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5 posts from November 9, 2013

November 09, 2013

Rapid Reaction: FSU 59 Wake Forest 3

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If you were looking for one individual to give a gameball to this week, Florida State's head coach, Jimbo Fisher, wouldn't be a bad choice.This may have been one of the most difficult weeks of Fisher's coaching career.

That sounds absurd, but think about it. In the last four weeks FSU has played two rivals -- both unbeaten and ranked in the top ten -- and a school that embarrassed them a year ago. They've been up and down in the BCS rankings -- second, third, second -- and have watched their young quarterback get bombarded with Heisman trophy hype. Then on Thursday they watched Oregon lose to Stanford and all but pave their road to the BCS title game. It was a lot of clutter, a lot of emotion to process.

Historically, this is the game FSU sleepwalks through and loses. This is an opponent that has upset Florida State before.

This was a trap game.

But you would have never known it judging by how Florida State came out and destroyed Wake Forest. 16 minutes into this game it was already 35-0. By the half -- when it was 42-0 -- FSU had removed all doubt. And once again it was FSU's youth that finished out the game on both sides of the ball as the starters made an early exit.

It seems the only defense capable of stopping Jameis Winston is Florida State's. Jameis Winston didn't even attempt a pass from the 7:15 minute mark of the first quarter until 10:31 into the second. That's over 12 minutes of gametime between passes.

FSU's redshirt freshman quarterback still finished 17/28 for 159 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, but it was clear he was out of rhythm after standing on the sideline for so long.

The real story was the Seminole defense though.

FSU forced seven turnovers -- including six interceptions. For some perspective, the Seminoles had 11 picks all of last season (they had a top ten defense last year too, by the way).

Nate Andrews had two picks (including a 56-yard touchdown return on one) in his first career start. Jalen Ramsey scored on a fumble. Christian Jones caused two picks, one of which he hauled in himself -- Mario Edwards caught the other. Terrance Smith and Marquez White also intercepted passes. 

Tanner Price, Wake's starting QB, lasted just four passes. His backup didn't have any more success -- both threw three interceptions. On the day the Demon Deacon offense finished with just 166 yards -- including just 81 in the first half.

Overall it was a suffocating performance from the Florida State defense, the offense played its part and FSU rolled 59-3. They are now 9-0 and have clinched the Atlantic division of the ACC.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Jameis Winston (17/28, 159, 2 TD, INT)
Rushing: James Wilder Jr. (6-49, TD)
Receiving: Rashad Greene (5-47)

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter... 

Halftime: FSU 42 Wake Forest 0

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Florida State wasted no time punishing Wake Forest in the early going on Saturday afternoon. It's 42-0 at the half. This game is already over.

After forcing a three and out on Wake's opening possesion, FSU methodically drove the ball down the field, going 80 yards in 13 plays and finishing on a James Wilder touchdown run.

That was just the start of things. Tanner Price tossed an interception -- his first of four -- on Wake's very next offensive play. Terrance Smith turned around on a drop and found a ball whizzing right at him, he took it back inside the Wake five yard-line on the return and two plays later it was a 13-0 Seminole lead.

It didn't get much better for Wake. After they converted their first 1st down of the afternoon, Christian Jones lit Price up off the edge and the ball ended up in the hands of DE Mario Edwards Jr. Once again, two plays later FSU was putting up another touchdown -- this time on an 18-yard pass from Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin. 

13 minutes into the game it was already 21-0. 

The second quarter started with an impressive display of depth from the Seminole secondary. Florida State started two freshman safeties today. Normally that would be a liability -- especially for a national title contender -- but on back-to-back plays at the start of the second quarter both Nate Andrews and Jalen Ramsey scored. 

Andrews picked off Tanner Price for the third time in four throws and took it back 56 yards for a touchdown. Then on the very next Wake offensive snap Jalen Ramsey scooped and scored on a Josh Harris fumble.

16 minutes in it was 35-0.

Then FSU tapered off a bit, after being off the field for a while -- a result of the back-to-back defensive scores -- the Seminole offense lost its rhythm. Kelvin Benjamin went into the lockerroom after coming up somewhat gingerly following a catch over the middle -- he was later ruled out due to a concussion. Kenny Shaw was shaken up following a collision with the wall in the back of the endzone. And overall, the entire offense looked out of sorts until the final drive of the first half when the Seminoles took the ball 57 yards on eight plays to make it 42-0.

Despite the lull, FSU has dominated all aspects of this game so far.

That all starts with the battle in the trenches where the Seminoles have blown Wake off the ball all day. The 'Noles have gotten constant pressure on Wake Forest's quarterbacks (Tanner Price was pulled briefly following his third pick) and on offense they have had little trouble establishing the run. 

Perhaps most notably, the Seminoles defense has been lethal today, forcing five first half turnovers, holding Wake to just 81 total yards, scoring twice and keeping the Demon Deacons off the scoreboard. Right now Wake quarterbacks have more completions to Seminoles (4) than to Demon Deacons (2). Nate Andrews is technically Wake's leading receiver.

Statistical Leaders:

Passing: Jameis Winston (14/22, 128, 2 TD)
Rushing: James Wilder Jr. (6-49, TD)
Receiving: Rashad Greene (5-47)

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Pregame: FSU at Wake Forest

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FSU and Wake Forest are set to kick it off in a little over an hour and a half from now. The Seminoles should have the upper hand in all facets of this game -- provided their focus is in the right place. This has been a wild few weeks for FSU. Between two top ten games with Clemson and Miami and a revenge game against NC State, it would be easy to overlook Wake.

Toss in the way FSU has yo-yo'ed back and forth from second to third to second in the BCS standings -- or the fact the Seminoles saw Oregon lose on Thursday night -- and the Seminoles' biggest obstacle this afternoon could easily be themselves.

If not, and FSU can handle their business, by 4 PM the 'Noles will be one step closer to Pasadena.

Here's your pregame capsule:

It's a Trap! [From Print]
Previewing the Opponent
Five Things to Watch For
Injury Report
Video Rewind: Chris Thompson

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter... 

Video Rewind: Chris Thompson Repays Wake Forest

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There is one universal rule in every press box. Regardless of dress codes or regional etiquette, there is always one rule that supercedes all others, you will hear it announced without fail at the beginning of every sporting event in every venue across the country (and I would assume in every country, the whole world over).

There is no cheering in the press box.

None. 

On September 15th of last year though, there was cheering in the press box at Doak Campbell Stadium. It started as a small ripple, a tiny fist pump snuck beneath the table well out of sight. But by the end of the first half of last year's Wake Forest-Florida State game -- as Chris Thompson approached 200 yards -- it was undeniable. On that day, regardless of what beat you were covering, there was cheering in the press box. 

To get the whole picture you have to go back two years, to 2011, when Thompson -- then a junior -- broke his back at Wake Forest.

It was a moment that many believed would end his career. Jimbo Fisher was so broken up over the injury that it was Thompson who had to console him -- and not the other way around -- when the two were at the hospital in Winston-Salem that night.

Thompson's T-5 and T-6 vertebrae had broken. He spent the night in a hospital in North Carolina as his whole team travelled home to Tallahassee without him following a 35-30 loss. His heart was heavy, his football career seemed done -- he questioned whether he even wanted to play again.

Then he found inspiration in an unexpected place. Ethan Fisher -- Jimbo's son, who suffers a rare blood disease called Fancomi Anemia -- was so concerned for Chris that he left a small toy car in Thompson's possession that evening. 

"That really just picked me up more than anything," Thompson said. "It meant a lot that [Ethan's] going through what he's going through and to even just think about me like that meant a lot to me."

Over the coming months Thompson worked relentlessly to come back. He lived in the gym, learned to take care of his body all over again and began to mentor the younger running backs on the team. On the nights when he'd find himself down -- or filled with doubt -- he would roll that tiny blue car's wheels across the palm of his hand and think of Ethan.

"He's not only a great player talent-wise, but he's a glue guy in terms of work ethic and character," Jimbo Fisher said last year. "What he represents, when you think of a Florida State football player, that's what you want to represent."

Coming into last year's Wake game Thompson had only shown glimmers of what he was capable of. Up until that point he had just nine carries through the Seminoles' first two games. He was still largely an unknown quantity -- regarded by many as little more than a feel-good story.

Then he did this:

Thompson carried nine times for 197 yards and two touchdowns -- all in the first half. A season earlier Wake Forest had literally broken Thompson's back as they beat FSU 35-30. On that Saturday less than a year later -- after fighting back from his career-threatening injury -- Thompson returned the favor and broke Wake's (figuratively, of course) as FSU won 52-0.

And on that day -- after watching Chris Thompson's year-long ordeal end so resoundingly -- the media in the Doak Campbell press box let out a little cheer.

It was hard not to.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Five Things to Watch For: FSU at Wake Forest

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Here are five things to watch for when Florida State invades Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest today at noon.

1.) Paging Florida State

This has been one of the most clutter-filled weeks of the entire Jimbo Fisher era. In fact it's been a cluttered last few weeks. Starting with a major road trip to Clemson to play in a top five matchup -- one that came complete with ESPN All-Access and College Gameday -- Florida State then proceeded to play a revenge game against NC State before essentially repeating Clemson week again in Tallahassee last weekend (complete, once again, with a visit from ESPN) when the Hurricanes came calling. 

That's two top ten matchups against rivals and an emotional game against a team that embarrassed the Seminoles last year all in the course of 21 days. They've been second in the BCS, then third, then second. On Thursday they flew to Winston-Salem a day early and then watched Oregon fall to Stanford -- all but insuring a spot in the title game should FSU just win out. 

That's a lot of clutter. A ton of clutter. This week could be the hardest Jimbo Fisher has really had to coach this team all year. If they come out flat, they could be in trouble. But if they come out with the same fire they've played with all year, then Pasadena will look a little more likely by the end of the contest.

2.) How Amped is Jameis Winston?

Last week Jameis Winston had his first human moments as the quarterback of Florida State. Two first half interceptions set Miami up with 14 points and forced Winston to embrace the checkdown in the second half. Granted he was 12-14 for 164 yards in that second half, but you can be sure that Winston will look to get back to his usual vertical passing self today. 

If Winston isn't too amped early on, he'll be fine. Fisher even admitted on Monday that one of Winston's picks was actually read correctly and thrown well, Nick O'Leary just didn't get his head around on it quickly enough. As long as Winston keeps his cool -- something he has done pretty much all season -- he could have a good passing day. If he's a bit too eager to air it out today though, he could give an opportunistic Wake defense some life.

3.) Nate Andrews

Nate Andrews has effectively become Terrence Brooks' protege as Brooks told us about a month ago: “It’s kind of weird to tell you the truth, I mean to see him out at practice you definitely see spurts of him just making amazing plays, diving catches, all kinds of stuff like that and I mean for the most part I try to take him under my wing just because I kind of see myself in him with that.”

Today Andrews will replace his mentor as one of the starting safeties in the FSU secondary. Brooks is still out following the effects of a concussion he suffered late against Miami and Andrews will spell him today against Wake.

"I feel like if he just believes in his abilities and really goes out there and just be comfortable - because I tell him that all the time - sometimes he goes into the game, he’s a little bit frantic but I make sure I grab him during the game like, ‘hey calm down, you’re good, you’re a good player, you can do this, calm down,’" said Brooks. "But I feel like he’s going to be really good, I know that’s somebody that you’ve got to watch out for because I promise you he’s going to be a good player. He likes to hit, he can cover well, very instinctive, I feel like he’s going to be really good.”

4.) Devonta Freeman's Quest for 1,000

The odds on Devonta Freeman being the first Florida State back to hit 1,000 yards since Warrick Dunn have gone up a little bit lately. Freeman has 639 yards through eight games. He can hit the mark in the regular season if he averages just a hair over 90 yards per game the rest of the way -- but a big game today against Wake would really propel him towards 1,000. Last year Chris Thompson destroyed Wake for nearly 200 yards in the first half. This year Florida State's line is a year older, a year nastier and Freeman is running the best he has since arriving in Tallahassee three years ago. 

Right now the biggest threat to Freeman's success is actually his own teammate. Karlos Williams' ability to run is undeniable at this point. The fact Freeman is a more complete back is what keeps him on the field. 

"He’s just a good back. He plays hard, he knows what he’s doing and he’s just smart," said LT Cam Erving. "He always knows where he needs to be, where he needs to hit the hole. Just a lot of intangibles, things people don’t see. Hard working. Just so persistent, he always gives credit where it’s due. After every touchdown, he’s thanking us, thanking God for everything.”

It's hard not to root for a kid like Freeman.

5.) Can FSU Stay Healthy?

One of the only things that could really throw a wrench in FSU's BCS plans -- short of UF figuring out how to run an offense by Thanksgiving -- would be a major injury. This time ten days ago, FSU's fans were a little unsure about their starters making an early exit. FSU's defense never took the field in the second half against NC State and many wondered whether the Seminoles could afford to forfeit the style points that would have come with playing them well into the second half.

After the NC State game Fisher even said he refused to embarrass the game of football by trying to run up a score. Two weeks later that still looks classy, and now the whole complexion of the discussion has changed. Fans should be begging Fisher to pull the starters as soon as they get a comfortable margin. FSU needs to stay healthy and the sooner they can get the reserves some playing time the better off they'll be. 

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...


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