Oct. 11, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There’s seesaw battles and then there’s the epic back-and-forth offensive spectacle that took place at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday night between Florida State and No. 22 Georgia Tech.
When the dust settled, and both team’s offenses retired to their respective corners, the Yellow Jackets escaped with a 49-44 victory over a Seminoles team that had no defensive answers and failed on several occasions to make the most of potential game-changing opportunities.
In total, FSU (2-4, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) and Georgia Tech (5-1, 3-1) combined for a whopping 1,071 yards of offense and 51 first downs.
The ‘Noles, they made their mark through the air as quarterback Christian Ponder achieved a new career-high with 359 yards on 26-of-36 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite target was Jarmon Fortson, whose seven catches and 77 yards receiving were both career-bests.
Taiwan Easterling was also a frequent target as his 104 yards receiving marked the first 100-yard game of his career.
As for the rushing attack, Jermaine Thomas bounced back from a slow start to his sophomore campaign as he finished with 98 yards on 19 carries. True freshman Chris Thompson had 49 yards on one long scamper.
For the game, FSU registered a season-high 539 yards on offense.
The Yellow Jackets achieved their success on the ground as Georgia Tech gained 401 yards rushing the football. That staggering total is the most against FSU since Auburn posted 418 all the way back in the 1985 season.
“That was the easiest game to summarize I have ever seen,” FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said. “We simply could not stop them. You cannot win games often enough if the only way you can win is to score on every possession … 44 points should have won that game.”
Less than four minutes after the Seminoles symbolically walked onto the field, hand-in-hand around their head coach, the offense proceeded to walk straight into the endzone on the team’s first drive.
A 24-yard run by Thomas and 13-yard grab by Beau Reliford got the ‘Noles close to the endzone and then Thomas capped it off with a three-yard dive.
The quick score by the Seminoles was a sign of things to come – despite a lengthy lightning delay that began right after Georgia Tech tied the game at 7-7 with 6:50 left in the first quarter.
Once both teams reemerged from the locker rooms, the dullness of a game stoppage was all but forgotten. First FSU jumped back on top when Ponder guided the offense down the field and found Reliford from 11 yards out for the sophomore tight end’s first-ever collegiate touchdown.
A 14-7 ‘Noles advantage didn’t last long, though, as a 60-yard Anthony Allen run set up Nesbitt’s second one-yard scoring dive of the night.
Tied at 14-14, Ponder had an answer as he orchestrated a scoring drive that was punctuated by a beautifully thrown ball to Richard Goodman between two defenders for a 23-yard touchdown with 2:39 to go in the first quarter.
But just as they had done in the exact same situation a few minutes earlier, Georgia Tech quickly eliminated a seven-point deficit with a long run. Jonathan Dwyer’s 69-yard dash tied the game at 21-21 just before the end of the first period.
In keeping with the pattern of no punting and consistent scoring by both teams, Ponder tossed his third touchdown of the opening half when Jarmon Fortson snuck one foot into the back of the endzone for a highlight-reel 17-yard score.
With the score back in FSU’s favor, 28-21, the Yellow Jackets had another answer with their tough-to-scheme triple option attack as Dwyer ran for a three-yard touchdown.
What happened next? You guessed it. The Seminoles scored again.
Knotted at 28-28, Florida State started at its own 29 yard-line and moved 71 yards in 10 plays. Thomas concluded the drive when he took a three-yard pass to pay dirt to give FSU a 35-28 lead.
Luckily for the Seminoles, 17 seconds left on the clock after Thomas’ touchdown reception was not enough for Georgia Tech to add to the scoreboard as the clock expired and halftime began.
Combined, both teams totaled nearly 650 yards of offense, nine touchdowns, zero punts and 30 first downs through the game’s first 30 minutes.
Georgia Tech got the ball to start the second half and FSU appeared to get just what it needed in an offensive shootout: a turnover.
On the Yellow Jackets second play of the third quarter, Nesbitt fumbled the ball and senior defensive end Kevin McNeil scooped it up for the home team on the Florida State 27 yard-line. But the ‘Noles couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity as the offense stalled for the first time all night and Dustin Hopkins missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.
Georgia Tech was unsympathetic to FSU’s misfortune and Nesbitt hit Demaryius Thomas for a 73-yard touchdown pass on the very next play to tie the score at 35-35.
Following a 40-yard Hopkins field goal that gave FSU a 38-35 lead, the Yellow Jackets advanced down the field with ease. Despite a habit of scoring on one- and two-play drives frequently throughout the game, the Ramblin Wreck rumbled methodically into the endzone and chewed up nine minutes off the clock to take a 42-38 lead.
Following the Seminoles’ first punt of the night, FSU again found itself on the receiving end of a Nesbitt fumble. But Moses McCray’s fumble recovery wound up being for naught as Ponder was sacked on the ‘Noles ensuing drive and he fumbled the ball back to the visitors.
“Our defense did take the ball away from them twice,” Bowden said. “We just couldn’t do nothing with it.”
A few minutes later the Seminoles suffered from a similar fate as sophomore linebacker Nigel Carr picked up another fumble but he then had the ball snatched away by Nesbitt. Two plays later Nesbitt juked and jived his way across the goal line for a 22-yard score to extend Georgia Tech’s lead to 49-38.
Just over two minutes later, Ponder cut into that lead as he hooked up with Rod Owens on a 13-yard scoring strike – his fifth touchdown pass of the day – but the ensuing two-point conversion was no good.
A 49-44 score would be as close the Seminoles would get as Georgia Tech grabbed the onside kick, bled the clock and took a knee to seal the win.
Florida State will now look to regroup as they will benefit from a bye this week. The Seminoles will be back in action on Oct. 22 when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. for a Thursday night tilt with the Tar Heels.
That conference matchup will be aired nationally on ESPN beginning at 7:45 p.m.