October 25, 2010 - by
High Marks

Oct. 25, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If practice and preparation is the best barometer for game performance, 16th-ranked Florida State should be well-positioned for a positive result Thursday night at NC State.

The Seminoles continued to earn high praise from football coach Jimbo Fisher following Monday’s practice, with one full session remaining before tackling the Wolfpack in a pivotal ACC Atlantic Division showdown.

Fisher really liked what he saw on the field as the Seminoles spent an extensive amount of time on third-down and red zone situations, which is the standard for a Wednesday workout during a normal game week.

“It was one of our better ones,” Fisher said of practice. “The energy level was high. The execution level was high. … We had fun, got work done. I was very pleased.”

FSU’s consistent, focused approach to practice throughout the season has been one of the most noticeable changes in Fisher’s first season. The carryover from that has been the Seminoles’ ability to play at a high level in critical situations. To wit, Florida State ranks second in the ACC in red zone offense, converting on 31 of 34 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (91.2 pct). Perhaps more importantly, 23 of those scores have been touchdowns – 11 rushing and 12 passing.

The importance of turning those trips into touchdowns was never more apparent than against Boston College, when the `Noles made three trips inside the Eagles’ 20 and came away with two touchdowns and a field goal. BC’s three red zone trips ended in field goals in a 24-19 loss.

Similar success against the Wolfpack, who rank second in the ACC in scoring offense (36 ppg), will be critical.

“It’s crucial,” Fisher said. “When you get your opportunities you’ve gotta score because they score. You can’t leave anything on the table. We’ve got to be able to run it, throw it and do what we have to do to get it in there. That’s all we preach in every ballgame and that’s a big part of what we try and emphasize.”

Fisher said Ponder’s decision-making and game management in the red zone – and on third down where the `Noles are converting at a league-best 49.4 pct. rate – has been instrumental in the programs’ first 4-0 league start since 2003.

“I think we’re more physical and we’re running the ball better,” Fisher said, sharing his thoughts on the reasons for the success. “I think (Ponder) is making good decisions down there … winning with his legs. He’s been scrambling and keeping plays alive and converting third downs.

“We’re able to run the football, be manageable on third downs and in the red zone – not being caught in third-and-10 or 11 – and (Ponder) is bailing us out.”

It is the kind of situational efficiency which has enabled the Seminoles to find success without the benefit of a prolific passing game through the first seven games of the season.

“The passing game is a fine (line),” Fisher added. “I’m not disappointed with it. I’m not happy that it’s where it needs to be. I’m happy we’re converting on third down and we’re converting in the red zone.”

Continuing to carry the practice effort over to the game performance at normally raucous Carter-Finley Stadium is essential, especially against an NC State team that Fisher said is the best he’s seen in his four years with the Seminoles.


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