Oct. 28, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s no secret to making Saturday a successful homecoming for Florida State, at least not defensively, against N.C. State.
Containing elusive Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson, last season’s ACC Player of the Year as a freshman, is where the game plan must begin for defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews’ unit.
“He’s dangerous with his feet as well as his arm,” said FSU coach Bobby Bowden, following Wednesday’s practice. “He’s got both. He’s just got a rocket of an arm. He can nail the ball 40 yards downfield and put it right on the button. Of course, he’s so dangerous running the football as well.”
It’s the running element of Wilson’s arsenal that is a primary concern for the Seminoles, who have already relinquished 100-yard rushing performances by quarterbacks B.J. Daniels of USF and Josh Nesbitt of Georgia Tech, this season.
What the Seminoles hope to do is keep Wilson bottled up as they did a year ago, when they rallied to a 26-17 victory in Raleigh on Thursday night. Wilson did manage to rush for 33 yards on four carries and also threw for a pair of touchdowns in a 13 of 25 performance, good for 181 yards.
“You’ve got to remember he was a freshman last year,” Andrews said of Wilson. “He probably didn’t have all of his offense in at that time. I do know that he got us on two big plays; two touchdown passes. One of them was to a tight end on a delay and one when we had a blitz on.”
Wilson hooked up with tight end Anthony Hill on a 20-yard scoring play, which gave the Wolfpack a 10-0 lead. The Seminoles countered with two Graham Gano field goals and Antone Smith’s 27-yard touchdown run for a 13-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when Wilson found wide receiver Owen Spencer on a 67-yard pass play to regain the lead.
“The guy is unbelievable about escaping pressure, buying time and finding open receivers, or running with the football,” Andrews said. “You wonder how fast he is because he keeps running by linebackers, DBs or whatever. He scares the heck out of you with the accuracy and touch he has on the ball.”
“Trying to rush him and keep him contained at the same time is very hard to do,” Bowden added. “If you rush him too hard he’ll spin out – and everybody’s chasing a receiver – and he’s got a lot of running room. … You’re nearly scared with a kid that runs that good.”
Of course, N.C. State must also contend with FSU quarterback and ACC passing leader Christian Ponder, who enjoyed the best statistical game of his sophomore season against the Wolfpack. Ponder completed 23 of 35 attempts for 254 yards and his 17-yard touchdown pass to Bert Reed proved to be the game-winner. Ponder also registered 29 rushing yards, out-dueling Wilson 283-225 in toal yards, and more importantly, on the scoreboard.
Stopping Wilson isn’t Andrews’ lone worry. The Seminoles must also contend with State’s rugged runners – Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene.
“The thing that hurt us last year was the running game,” Andrews said, after the ‘Pack ran for 157 yards on 22 carries. “We had trouble stopping the running game. We have to do a better job with the run and not give up big plays. If we do that, play solid fundamentals, we’ll have a chance.”