Oct. 26, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There was a little extra bounce in the step of the Florida State football team during Monday’s 18-period practice session. Snapping a three-game losing streak for their first victory in a month, the Seminoles were decidedly upbeat as they began preparation for Saturday’s homecoming game against N.C. State.
“I thought it was a pretty good practice as far as effort is concerned,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. “They’ve done a pretty good job of that all year, really. That ballgame the other night was no different than others we’ve played. It comes down to the last two or three minutes, except this one, we won. …
“We needed that win. It was good for us. We’ve been in a situation where we’ve had our backs to the wall. That’s what we’re facing.”
Quarterback Christian Ponder and offensive tackle Andrew Datko earned ACC Player of the Week honors for their performances in FSU’s 30-27 win at North Carolina on Thursday night. Ponder passed for a career-high 395 yards and three second half touchdowns, completing a personal-best 33 of 40 attempts without an interception for the sixth consecutive game. Ponder’s production in leading the ‘Noles back from an 18-point deficit against the nation’s top-rated pass defense would not have been possible without Datko’s stellar work against ACC sacks leader Robert Quinn. Datko graded out at 83 percent, did not commit a penalty or allow a sack or pressure in 69 snaps.
“I didn’t want it to happen again because I didn’t play as well against South Florida,” said Datko. “I took this opportunity to play and help this team, because I knew it was going to be dependent on me for Christian to have time, so I just tried to do my best.”
Datko will face another challenge Saturday against N.C. State defensive end standout Willie Young.
“Last year I remember playing against (Young),” he added. “He’s a quick guy with long arms, so I’ve just got to do the same thing I did the last game in this game.”
Ponder, who has set new career-highs for passing yardage in three consecutive games, praised his offensive line and receivers for their contributions against the Tar Heels.
“They’re playing really well,” Ponder said. “When I put up the yards I do it’s because of them. … If I don’t have time to throw it’s not going to get done, so all of the accolades need to go to them. They’re playing their hearts out.”
Wide receiver Rod Owens, who collected a career-high nine receptions for 199 yards – highlighted by his ACC record-tying 98-yard touchdown reception – said Ponder deserves plenty of credit.
“He’s the leader of the offense,” Owens said. “If he doesn’t go, then we don’t go. He has to stay for us because he’s leading the whole offense. And he always stays positive and talks to people, keeps them settled, keeps them poised and tells them that, ‘Hey, it’s not over. Always keep your head up because you never know what’s going to happen.'”
What the Seminoles hope will happen is a late-season surge that puts them in the thick of the ACC Atlantic Division race. Despite earning just their first league win against North Carolina, FSU controls its own destiny in the division, which they can bolster with a victory over the Wolfpack.
A homecoming victory in Saturday’s 12 noon game will also impact next week’s television schedule. The ACC announced Monday that ABC/ESPN and Raycom have exercised their six-day option for determining the start time and television network carrying the Nov. 7 game at Clemson. That announcement will come Sunday.