Nov. 11, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When the 2009 season unfolded many predicted Florida State and Wake Forest would contend for the right to represent the ACC’s Atlantic Division in the conference championship game.
As it turns out, the Seminoles (4-5, 2-4 ACC) and Demon Deacons (4-6, 2-4) square off Saturday in Winston-Salem, NC battling to keep bowl hopes alive.
“They’re like us in a lot of ways – could have won every game they’ve played,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said following Wednesday’s practice. “We’re the same way.”
Neither team has consistently found a way to pull out victories in the fourth quarter. Five of Wake Forest’s six defeats have come by a combined total of 13 points, including a pair of overtime losses. Likewise, the Seminoles have been in each of their five defeats until the final period; most of which were determined in the closing minutes.
“I don’t know how unlucky we are, but if we had been a little bit luckier we’d both have a better won-loss record,” said Bowden.
The Seminoles are coming off their most lopsided loss of the season, a 16-point setback at Clemson, which included the loss of starting quarterback Christian Ponder for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Wake Forest is trying to snap a four-game losing streak, which began with a 35-point loss at Clemson. Deacs quarterback Riley Skinner also missed some time along the way with a concussion, but played in last week’s overtime loss to Georgia Tech.
Redshirt freshman EJ Manuel makes his first start at quarterback for the Seminoles and received high marks for his effort during Wednesday’s blustery practice from both offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and Bowden.
“I thought Manuel … looked good,” Bowden said. “He was very efficient. I think he’s ready to play.”
The Seminoles also hope to keep sophomore tailback Jermaine Thomas going. Thomas has rushed for 305 yards over the past two games and faces a Wake Forest team that is yielding 168 rushing yards a game.
“Nothing would help more,” Bowden added. “The running game really sets up the passing game.”
PONDER A FINALIST FOR WUERFFEL TROPHY
Quarterback Christian Ponder was named one of 12 finalists for the Wuerffel Trophy, a national award that honors the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement. The award is named in honor of former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel, who led the Gators to a national championship and played six seasons in the NFL, but has received national recognition for his community service efforts with the Desire Street Ministries in New Orleans.
Ponder, who will earn his MBA in the spring after graduating with honors in 2 1/2 years, has logged countless hours of community service in the Tallahassee area. He was also in the midst of one of the finest seasons by a Florida State quarterback until suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last week at Clemson.
“Once again, I’m amazed to see the list of finalists, and in particular, their amazing accomplishments off the field,” Wuerffel said. “Each year it is harder and harder for all of us on the selection committee to try to narrow it down and pick just one.”
The lone junior among the 12 finalists in terms of athletic elibgibility, Ponder is one of three quarterbacks. The others are Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour and Western Michigan’s Tim Hiller. The remaining finalists are: Arizona State linebacker Mike Nixon, Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, Michigan State wide receiver Blair White, Northwestern wide receiver Andrew Brewer, Rice safet Andrew Sandejo, Temple defensive back Dominique Harris, Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley, Utah offensive lineman Zane Beadles and West Virginia linebacker Reed Williams.
The winner will be announced Dec. 8.
Sophomore starting left tackle Andrew Datko returned to practice after missing two days with a sore shoulder and went the distance. … Sophomore cornerback Dionte Allen, out of action for a month following a thumb injury, has practiced this week and will travel to Wake Forest. … Freshman tailback Chris Thompson has missed practice time this week following the passing of his grandfather. … It was incorrectly reported that Manuel has played 11 snaps this season. He has played 14 – 8 at BYU, 1 against USF and 5 at Clemson.