Nov. 2, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder has no intention of sitting out Saturday’s game at Clemson with sore ribs. Ponder and offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher left little doubt that the red-hot junior will be in the huddle when the Seminoles take their two-game winning streak into Death Valley with ACC Atlantic Division title hopes still in place.
Beyond some discomfort, Ponder said he intends to play at Clemson, where a victory would complete a three-week run from last place to second place in the division. Of course, Fisher doesn’t doubt his second-year starter’s ability to play effectively with pain in the least.
“He’s a tough nut now,” Fisher said of the ACC leader in passing yards and total offense. “This guy is as tough as I’ve coached and been around.”
Despite playing a good portion of the first half against N.C. State after a blow to the ribs, Ponder turned in yet another rock-solid performance, leading the Seminoles to a second consecutive fourth quarter comeback.
“I’ve never had a quarterback grade 90 (percent) and this guy has done it three times this year,” Fisher said. “This was his second highest grade of the year.”
Ponder and the Seminoles will have to step it up another level against a Clemson team that the FSU coaches believe is the most talented they’ve faced this season, especially on the defensive side of the football. The Tigers lead the ACC in scoring defense and passing defense, and rank second in total defense.
The Seminoles got to work in the cool air Monday night inside Doak Campbell Stadium, where the tempo was a brisk and the team’s attitude was good. “Success breeds success and the more you win, the better you feel about yourself,” executive head coach Chuck Amato said afterward. “The practices have been really, really good. Speaking defensively, we’ve got to cut down on the silly mistakes, and those silly mistakes have been creating big statistics.”
Most of the Seminoles are well-acquainted with the Tigers, especially their big-play tandem of senior Floridians, tailback C.J. Spiller and receiver Jacoby Ford, who are equally dangerous in the return game.
“We just have to play our positions and be disciplined throughout the whole game because we know Clemson, they have a great amount of speed and they like to use the whole field,” said FSU freshman defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel. “The most important thing for us to do against them this week is to be disciplined.”
Conversely, the Tigers must also contend with a potent FSU offense, which has put up 129 points over the past three games with Ponder as the trigger man. As an added bonus, the Seminoles received a career-high 186-yard rushing performance from sophomore tailback Jermaine Thomas, who had little trouble finding room to run behind an ever-improving offensive line.
“We work real hard and try to just do our job and things worked out for us in the end,” said junior offensive guard Rodney Hudson, after the ‘Noles capped a 555-yard offensive effort with Bert Reed’s 3-yard TD run to beat N.C. State on Saturday. “It felt real good not only to punch it in on the goal line but to get the win. That’s the most important thing.” For his efforts, Hudson picked up his second ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honor of the season and the fifth of his career.