Aug. 21, 2003
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
With the season opener just nine days away, the 12th-ranked Florida State University football team fine-tuned itself on both sides of the ball during Thursday’s (August 21) scrimmage. As has been the case for most of the preseason, the defense dominated play with a pair of interceptions, but the vastly improving offense made some strides of its own.
During the first series of the morning, the first-string defense got on the board against the number two offense. Quarterback Fabian Walker’s (Americus, Ga.) pass was batted by defensive lineman Travis Johnson (Sherman Oaks, Calif. / Notre Dame) and returned 43 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Brodrick Bunkley (Tampa, Fla. / Chamberlain).
The only score of the scrimmage from the offensive side of the ball came during the starting offense’s opening drive. On the very first play of the series, quarterback Chris Rix (Santa Margarita, Calif. / Catholic) hooked up with wide receiver Craphonso Thrope (Tallahassee, Fla. / Lincoln) for a 46-yard pass to the 14 yard line. After a pair of two-yard plays to tailback Greg Jones (Beaufort, S.C. / Battery Creek), kicker Xavier Beitia (Tampa, Fla. / Jesuit) booted a 27-yard field goal.
Coming up with the final score of the morning was linebacker Michael Boulware (Columbia, S.C. / Spring Valley) off the defense’s second turnover. After defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (Burtonsville, MD / Paint Branch) tipped another Walker pass, the senior captain snagged the ball out of the air at the 50-yard line and raced in for the score.
“The defense is playing like they are suppose to,” FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said. “They’re batting balls, making tackles and playing with a lot of enthusiasm. I haven’t seen that around here for quite a while.”
Leading the strong defensive performance that included ten sacks was three players with two or more sacks. Sophomore defensive end Kamerion Wimbley (Wichita, KS / Northwest) led the way with a trio of sacks, followed by Dockett and linebacker Claudius Osei at two a piece. Linebacker Marcello Church (St. Petersburg, Fla. / Lakewood), defensive end Chauncey Davis (Auburndale, Fla. / Jones CC) and linebacker Ray Piquion (Miami / Miami Beach) also traded on the sack exchange.
Offensively Florida State concentrated mostly on the pass with Rix hitting five different receivers as part of his 5-for-8 passing with 110 yards. Walker threw for 33 yards on 3-of-5 passing. Besides Thorpe on the opening play, big catches were hauled in by Willie Reid (Kathleen G.A. / Warner Robbins) as he caught a 38-yarder, while Lorne Sam (Buford, G.A.) and Joey Kaleikini (Niceville, Fla.) pulled down balls of 28 and 25 yards, respectively.
On the ground the Seminoles went with just ten running plays. Senior captain Jones gained a team-high 12 yards on three rushes, while Ryan Reynolds topped the backs with five carries. Jones produced the team’s only score during goal line situations.
“The offense had a tough time today because the defense was throwing a lot at them,” Bowden added. “We ran a lot of passing only situations and the defense knew that so they were able to come with a lot of blitzes and make it hard for the offense. Even with all that the offense has been improving. We ran the ball today a lot better than we have been.”
Picked to win their 11th Atlantic Coast Conference title, the Seminoles open the season on August 30 in Chapel Hill, N.C., against North Carolina at 8 p.m.. Florida State starts the home schedule on September at Doak Campbell Stadium with a 7:15 contests against Maryland.