Oct. 2, 2010
By: Steve Stone, Seminoles.com
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Tailbacks Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson combined for nearly 200 yards rushing as Florida State pulled away early from Virginia to win 34-14 on Saturday afternoon at the Carl Smith Center.
Thomas amassed a season-high 122 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns, while Thompson added 76 yards on 10 carries with a score. Thomas scored multiple rushing touchdowns for the third time in his career, recorded his sixth 100-yard game, as FSU piled up 256 yards on the ground.
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FSU’s 256 yards rushing marks its third consecutive game of piling 200 or more yards on the ground. The last time the Seminoles (4-1, 2-0) rushed for 200 or more yards in three consecutive contests was during the 2000 season against N.C. State on Oct. 28 (324 yards), Clemson on Nov. 4 (250 yards) and Wake Forest on Nov. 11 (229 yards).
“They’re learning to focus; they’re learning to prepare,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said after his first career road win. “They’re understanding that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – they’re learning they can’t just say `now I build my momentum on Friday night.’ They’re learning how to come to the game to compete. It’s part of maturing and it’s a great thing to see.”
The Seminoles’ 34 points also marks their third consecutive contest of reaching the 30-point plateau. It is the first time for such a feat since the 2004 season when FSU scored 34 vs. UAB, 41 vs. Clemson and 38 vs. North Carolina in victories.
“We’re 2-0 in the league. It’s learning to win on the road in the league,” Fisher added. “If you’re going to win conference titles, you’re going to have to win in somebody else’s house. Virginia has played really good football all year. Really good football.”
Middle linebacker Kendall Smith led the defensive unit with six tackles and a forced fumble. Cornerback Greg Reid finished with a career-best two interceptions, while Markus White, Dan Hicks, Demonte McAllister, Xavier Rhodes, Nigel Bradham and Christian Jones each recorded one of FSU’s six sacks on the afternoon to expand FSU’s nation-leading total.
“They played well,” Fisher said of his defensive unit. “The offense ate the ball and kept them off the field. The defense got some three-and-outs. They played together. That’s what we keep saying: offense, defense. Here’s what you’ve got to understand. Defense is getting three-and-outs, offense is taking six minute drives, which keeps an offense out of whack for the other team.”
FSU’s first drive of the game resulted in a 37-yard field goal by place kicker Dustin Hopkins. The Seminoles marched 59 yards in 4:22, completing two key third downs as tight end Beau Reliford hauled in a 16-yard pass at the FSU 39, and Ponder converted a 3rd-and-2 on a five-yard rush to the UVA 35 to put the Seminoles in scoring position.
On FSU’s next possession, Thomas broke loose for a career-long 70 yard touchdown through the right side, eluding his first defender before dashing to the end zone to put FSU ahead 10-0.
The third drive of the game was well-executed once again, as FSU took off 5:59 on the clock before culminating with a 15-yard touchdown reception by sophomore wide receiver Willie Haulstead, his third score of the season. Haulstead finished with a team-best 79 yards on five receptions.
“He really made some good plays,” Fisher said of Ponder. “He was very efficient today. I thought he missed some things but he scrambled two or three times which he always does. He threw 29 times but he didn’t have to throw it all the time. We made plays and he was really efficient on third down. We were 10-for-16 on third-down.”
Thomas extended FSU’s lead to 24-0 on a 10-yard rush through the right side with 10:18 remaining in the first half. Thomas’ score was the 16th rushing touchdown of his career, tying him with former players William Floyd (1991-93) and William McCray (1997-01) for 12th on the school’s career list.
A nine-play, 32-minute drive by the Seminoles ended with a 21-yard field goal by Hopkins to make it 27-0 at halftime. FSU outgained the Cavaliers (2-2, 0-1) 294-42 in the first half, with 191 yards coming on the ground. Aside from Thomas’ productive first half, sophomore Thompson established 54 yards on six carries, as FSU scored on four of its five possessions.
Virginia opened up the field to start the second half, as quarterback Marc Verica connected on a 76-yard strike to wide receiver Kris Burd on UVA’s first possession. The touchdown ended FSU’s defensive scoreless streak to eight quarters as the Cavaliers trimmed their deficit to 27-7.
Virginia threatened again on its second possession of the second half, but Verica threw an interception to cornerback Greg Reid on a broken route in the end zone to quell the momentum. FSU then used just six plays to travel 80 yards downfield as Thompson rushed in from 14 yards out to give the Seminoles a 34-7 lead. The big play of the drive came when Ponder hit Haulstead on a fly pattern 38 yards down the sideline to the UVA 14 to set up the score.
With 10:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers moved inside FSU’s red zone at the 19-yard line until Verica threw another interception to Reid, who returned it to the FSU 32. Reid’s second interception marks the first time an FSU player has recorded multiple picks in one game since Ochucko Jenije also had two against USF on Sept. 26, 2009.
Virginia’s Burd led all receivers with 118 yards. The Cavaliers were held to just 25 yards rushing in today’s contest.
FSU returns with a prime-time matchup at rival Miami on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on ABC.