Sept. 8, 2010
TALLAHASSEE – If the Florida State football players have any trouble communicating over the din of 82,000 cheering Oklahoma fans Saturday at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, it won’t be because the Seminoles weren’t prepared.
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Operating in a noisy environment and dealing with Oklahoma’s no-huddle offense and multiple defensive looks have been top priorities throughout the week at practice.
“We’re getting a lot better,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said after Wednesday’s practice. “You can see it clicking in and the communication is getting better and they’re starting to understand what they’re doing. Oklahoma presents a lot of problems on both sides of the ball because they’re very complex. You can start to see the little details getting better and better.”
Fisher and his FSU staff leave nothing to chance when it comes to covering the details. Quarterback Christian Ponder has spent time whispering calls at the line and the coaches on both sides of the ball have honed the hand-signaling skills; working them within the normal routine of the two-hour work sessions each day.
Junior offensive tackle Andrew Datko, who along with his line mates have played at Florida and Clemson, is confident that the Seminoles will handle the atmosphere.
“You’ve just got to yell and scream at the top of your lungs with line calls and stuff,” said Datko, who is part of a unit that brings 147 career starts into the game. “You have to know what (your teammate) is going to be doing that. So, if I can’t hear (guard, Rodney) Hudson, I’m still going to know what he’s doing. We just have to communicate and make sure we’re sharp with that.”
That the Seminoles have a third-year starting quarterback in Ponder and a veteran line, should help.
“That’s where, hopefully, all of our experience and knowledge at quarterback and (on the) offensive line – even at running back in different places – we’ll be able to communicate like we’re supposed to,” Fisher said.
FSU’s defensive unit is also gearing up for the Sooners’ no-huddle attack, which will require hand-signaling in plays and substitutions on the fly.
“I thought (the defensive communication) was really good,” Fisher said. “I noticed they did it in all the drills in the things they did against (the offense). Yesterday you had a missed assignment or two, but today they really got a hold of it and did a really good job.”
Sophomore fullback Lonnie Pryor takes special pride in being the recipient of Ponder’s first touchdown pass of the season, and the first of the Fisher Era. “It feels pretty good and my roommate (kicker Dustin Hopkins) had the first field goal, too,” said Pryor, who scored twice against Samford. Hopkins finished the day with 11 points.
Fisher said starting linebacker Mister Alexander, who turned himself into officials Tuesday on a failure-to-appear warrant , would make the trip to Oklahoma and play. Alexander is in the process of clearing up the matter, which is related to a traffic summons. “He’s getting that worked out and he’ll be fine,” Fisher said.
Fisher praised the scout team for their help in preparing the Seminoles for the Sooners. “Our scout team has done a really good job this week,” he said. “Nothing simulates it like you do in a real game and we’ll have to adjust, but I think the preparation has been good.”
It only counts as one game. That’s the mantra Fisher has been preaching all along to the Seminoles in an effort to get them to focus on the game at hand, regardless the competition. “Like coach Fisher says, `A win is just one win,'” said Datko. “If we beat Oklahoma it doesn’t mean we get three wins.”
Florida State enters Saturday’s game at No. 17 in the AP; their highest ranking since 2008. Oklahoma checks in at No. 10. If you’re looking for good omens, a road win against the Sooners – who have won 31 consecutive games at home – would be FSU’s third in its last four meetings with Top 10 opponents. The `Noles knocked off No. 7 BYU last season and beat No. 2 Boston College in 2007 – both on the road.