Nov. 4, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The drone of piped in crowd noise echoed throughout Doak Campbell Stadium late Wednesday as the Florida State wrapped up the final 40 minutes of practice preparing for Saturday’s trip to Clemson’s Death Valley.
Had there been a real crowd, the noise may have been even louder. After two days of light throwing, quarterback Christian Ponder jumped back in to direct the first-team offense.
“Today’s the first day he got some team work,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said of Ponder’s return. “He’s thrown some balls the last couple of days. As far as his arm strength, I saw no difference.”
That was comforting news as the Seminoles prepare to put their two-game winning streak on the line against Tigers, who have won three in a row and control their own destiny in the ACC’s Atlantic Division race. With Boston College and Clemson ahead of FSU in the standings, a loss on Saturday would all but eliminate the ‘Noles from conference championship game contention.
If there was an upside to Ponder giving his sore ribs a couple days of rest, it was the opportunity for redshirt freshman quarterback E.J. Manuel to get the lion’s share of practice repetitions with the first-team offense. His performance drew praise from both Bowden and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher.
“E.J. has looked the best this week since he’s been here,” Bowden said. “He got all of the work Tuesday and Monday … and looked pretty darn good.”
Fisher was equally impressed with how Ponder’s back-up – which he called the toughest job in all of sports – prepared himself for the challenge of a heavier practice load.
“He did a good job (and) played pretty good,” Fisher said. “He had a good grasp of what was going on. He got a little more opportunity early in the week so his mind was into it a little bit more.”
Still, all parties were happy to have Ponder back in the regular practice mix with a trip to raucous Death Valley and a date with the stout Tigers’ defense coming up quickly.