Sept. 30, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Getting off to a fast start Saturday on the road could be the best antidote for a young Florida State football team trying to find its identity.
“It would be nice,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said, following Wednesday’s practice. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win it if you do, because you have 60 minutes to play. … It would definitely help to gain confidence.”
History suggests a fast starts bode well when the Seminoles take on Boston College. The winner in each of the four previous Atlantic Coast Conference meetings between the schools has put the first touchdown on the board. That was true in 2005, when the Seminoles raced to a 14-0 first quarter lead and won 28-17and again in 2007, when the ‘Noles jumped out 10-0 in a 27-17 triumph.
A.J. Nicholson scored on a 19-yard interception return and quarterback Drew Weatherford connected with Greg Carr on a 20-yard pass to jump-start the Seminoles in their first ACC win over the Eagles. Preston Parker’s 23-yard touchdown pass from Weatherford keyed FSU’s win at Alumni Stadium in ’07.
The first-touchdown pattern, however, holds true for the Eagles as well. BC put the first touchdown on the board in 2006 and 2008 wins over FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Regardless, all four meetings between the schools have come down to the final quarter, with the largest margin of victory for either side a mere 11 points.
Beyond the fast start, Florida State would like to maintain its recent string of success away from home. Counting neutral site games, the Seminoles have won six of their last seven away from Doak Campbell Stadium. That’s in stark contrast to the 1-4 home mark over the last five games.
Bowden was at a loss for explaining the Seminoles success on the road as compared to home, but noted that many of his early FSU teams enjoyed similar results.
One of the more valuable weapons for the Seminoles against the Eagles could be kicker Dustin Hopkins. While the freshman has labored with his placement kicks, he has been a friend of the FSU defense with his booming kickoffs. Nine of his 22 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks and his average kick has been 65 yards; no small feat given the rule change that forces teams to kick off from the 30-yard line.
“He’s got a good strong leg and I think he’ll even get stronger as he grows older,” said Bowden. “That was so big against BYU, where they nearly had to start every drive at the 20.”
Hopkins had seven touchbacks in the thin air at BYU, but followed up with another strong effort against South Florida.
“The further (back) you start your drive, the less chance you have of scoring,” Bowden said. “We were a pretty good example of that last week, where we’d get the ball and drive it 40 or 50 yards and punt it (or fumble). .. To score, you nearly have to have a long play somewhere. To consistently drive and drive, it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen some.”