August 22, 2009 - by
Goal Line Shutout Caps Improved Day For Defense

Aug. 22, 2009




TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State closed out its final scrimmage before the start of the fall semester with just enough feel-good plays to be encouraged, yet enough mistakes to understand there is much work ahead before the Sept. 7 opener against Miami.

 Quarterback Christian Ponder completed 12 of 16 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns against the second-team defense, while back-up EJ Manuel went 7 of 13 for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Despite those impressive offensive numbers, the Seminoles were hurt be penalties and lost three fumbles over the course of Saturday’s 2-hour scrimmage.

 “Their youth and inexperience showed today as a group,” FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. “It was just very, very inconsistent. What did I tell you was going to happen? I rubbed that crystal ball. … Then all of a sudden we started making plays.

“(Ponder) played real well today. I was really proud, because we were having some penalties and weren’t making plays early and he kept his poise and kept making plays. When he had an opportunity to make plays, he made them.”

 Ponder tossed touchdown passes to Jarmon Fortson (5 yards) and Rod Owens (27 yards). Manuel’s scoring tosses to Josh Gehres and Willie Haulstead covered 49 and 26 yards, respectively.

 “The defense started off pretty strong, but it seemed as the game went further they gave up more touchdown passes,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. “They weren’t giving up a lot of long runs.”

 FSU’s running game was virtually non-exsistent as Jermaine Thomas led all rushers with 24 yards on six carries. The defensive toughness was especially impressive as the scrimmage drew to a close with both the first and second units keeping the offense out of the end zone in both red zone and goal line drills. James Esco did kick a 20-yard field goal for the first-team offense in red zone.

The offense failed to generate a single positive yard in four goal line plays. It marked the first time this preseason that the defense pitched a shutout in the goal line drill.

“We came out real fired up today because we knew that with this being the end of two-a-days that this would be one of the last times that we’d be able to go full speed and hit each other,” junior middle linebacker Kendall Smith said. “We just wanted come out and end on a good note. And I think with us taking it to the offense like we did, it’ll end up making them better.”

 Free safety Jamie Robinson and linebacker Maurice Harris led the defense with six tackles each.

“They did a good job down there (on the goal line),” Bowden said. “As a coach, you want them both to do good, but if I had a preference it would always be defense. You have to have great defense to get to the top.”

Like Smith, Ponder acknowledged that the better the defense plays, the more helpful it will be to the offense. “They really came out with the right attitude, really wanted to stop us and did good job,” Ponder said of his defensive teammates. “It definitely helps a lot. It’s more of a game-like situation when they’re playing hard. It makes us a better offense. Everything is not going to come easy and we’ve got to get used to that. We’re going to be facing good defenses all season. When they play well it makes us better, too.”

 Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews saw some progress, but wasn’t quite ready to begin handing out laurels.

“It looked like we tried to save ourselves to the goal line instead of extend ourselves to the limit (throughout) and somehow find a way to win on the goal line again,” Andrews said. “You can’t save yourself to the fourth quarter (in games) because you’ll never recover. …

“Overall (there was) progress, but we still haven’t learned to push oursevles mentally and physically to play at the level we want to.”

The Seminoles will conduct a kicking scrimmage Saturday evening, then get a two-day reprieve from the practice field as class begins Monday. They will start their in-season routine with Tuesday’s practice.

Scrimmage highlights

 Scoring

Jarmon Fortson 5 pass from Christian Ponder (James Esco kick)

Josh Gehres 40 pass from EJ Manuel (Dustin Hopkins kick)

Willie Haulstead 26 pass from Manuel (Esco kick)

 Rod Owens 27 pass from Ponder (Hopkins kick)

Statistical leaders

 Defense

 Jamie robinson – 6 tackles 1 tfl

 Maurice Harris – 6 tackles

 Dekoda Watson- 5 tackles 1 sack 1 pbu

Gerald Demps – 4 tackles

Nigel Bradham – 4 tackles

Ricardo Wright – 4 tackles

 Offense

Passing

Christian Ponder 12-16 233 2 tds

EJ Manuel 7-13 112 2 tds

Rushing

Jermaine Thomas 6-24

Ty Jones 6-12

 Receiving

 Rod Owens 5-79 1 td

 Bert Reed 3-107 1 td

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