Oct. 8, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State put a wrap on its on-field preparation for Saturday’s home date with No. 22 Georgia Tech Thursday. The focus throughout the week has not changed one iota.
In order to contain the Yellow Jackets’ run-based, spread option, the Seminoles must play assignment football and be sure tacklers. Executive head coach Chuck Amato boiled it down even more succinctly.
“It all comes down to who is going to win the war up front – their side or our side,” Amato said.
Last season the Yellow Jackets won just enough of those battles, springing B-Back Jonathan Dwyer for two long touchdown runs, to prevail 31-28 in Atlanta.
“Those are the plays that will kill you,” said Amato.
The Seminoles come home to Doak Campbell Stadium where they are 6-0 lifetime against the Yellow Jackets. FSU leads the all-time series 12-8-1, including a 12-1 mark since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Despite a swirl of potential off-field distractions this week, the Seminoles have been resolute in preparing to snap a two-game losing streak.
“I think we’ve had good preparation for it,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. “It’s a matter if we can play errorless football. We’ve got to be able to tackle this week and execute. It gets down to execution.
“They’ve responded as if everything’s fine. They’ve responded well. They didn’t pay any attention to outside stuff. Practices have been good. They’ve been tough.”
Bowden’s sentiments resonated throughout the squad.
“Practice went well,” said junior quarterback Christian Ponder. “It was definitely one of the best weeks of the year. We had a great Thursday. … The guys are focused and having fun during practice. We’ve kept a pretty good high going into practice, so that was good to see.”
While much of the focus has been on Florida State’s need to hold the Yellow Jackets’ high-powered offense in check, the Seminoles’ offense plays a significant role as well. FSU must improve on its red zone efficiency, but controlling the time of possession battle would go a long way toward a victory.
Florida State won the time of possession battle a year ago by 6 1/2 minutes, including a whopping 8 1/2-minute advantage in the fourth quarter. If not for a fumble going into the end zone for the winning touchdown with seconds remaining, the Seminoles would have prevailed.
“Our offense did a fantastic job of getting the game to our side,” said Amato.
Much of that credit goes to the offensive line, which cleared the way for a 196-yard rushing output, including a career-high 130 by then-freshman tailback Jermaine Thomas.
FSU junior All-American guard candidate Rodney Hudson feels like his unit is well-prepared for the challenge ahead.
“Practice went good this week,” said Hudson. “Monday and Tuesday were real good. We faded a little bit on Wednesday. … It was hot, but we fought through it. We had a good day today and just look forward to the game.
“They’ve got a good defense; good players. All around, they are strong in every area and not just one spot.”
Ponder isn’t expecting many surprises from the Yellow Jackets’ defense.
“They are pretty much the same as last year,” he said. “They run a little different scheme than a lot of these other teams. We’ve watched a lot of film and we know what they are doing. They’ve got a lot of good players and we’re gonna have to play our best if we want to be successful.”