Sept. 26, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It was just one of those days for the No. 18-ranked Florida State football team Saturday in the team’s “White Out” game against South Florida.
The Seminoles (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) struggled from start to finish in their first-ever contest against the Bulls (4-0, 0-0) and limped out of Doak Campbell Stadium with a 17-7 defeat.
“They are a whole lot better than I thought,” FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said. “They beat the heck out of us and we didn’t help ourselves. We self-destructed but no taking anything away from them. They whooped us.”
Blame the turnovers and FSU’s inability to make the most of its opportunities in the meltdown. In total, the Seminoles lost four fumbles and only scored once in the four times they reached the redzone.
The defense also allowed Tallahassee native B.J. Daniels to toss two 70-plus-yard scoring passes and also become the first opposing signal-caller to rush for over 100 yards since Nebraska’s Steve Taylor did so way back in 1986.
Daniels finished the game with 126 yards on 23 carries and had just eight completions but they totaled 215 yards. He also had two interceptions.
His counterpart, Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder, was noticeably different after his heroics at BYU left him banged up and hurting. Ponder never had much time to throw on Saturday and completed 25 of his 37 passes for 269 with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Bert Reed led the FSU receivers with career highs in both catches (nine) and yards (114). The Seminole rushing attack was non-existent as the team mustered just 19 yards on 27 carries.
For the game, USF out-gained FSU 368-288. Both teams had over 80 yards in penalties.
“I have been in their shoes so many times,” Bowden said about the Bulls’ upset victory.
Desperately in need of anything to light a spark of momentum, defensive back Greg Reid just about did that.
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With his team down 14-0 to start the fourth quarter, the electrifying true freshman’s 54-yard punt return gave the Seminoles great field position and the offense finally made it count after a failure to do so all day.
After a Ponder to Reed connection for 22 yards put the ‘Noles on the three yard-line, Ty Jones bullied his way into the endzone and FSU cut its deficit to 14-7.
But that would be it.
Redshirt junior defensive back Ochuko Jenije’s second interception of the day with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter appeared to be what FSU needed. But on the Seminoles’ very first play of the resulting drive Ponder lost the ball on a sack and USF recovered.
The Bulls added a field goal and the resulting 17-7 score wouldn’t change.
“When I look at this film, the way we got beat up up-front on offense,” Bowden said, “I didn’t know they could do that. I think a lot of it was them just beating the guy. They just beat our blockers.”
The first half was certainly one that any one associated with FSU will soon want to forget.
The Seminoles got all the way down to the three yard-line early in second quarter after Ponder connected with Reed for a 27-yard gain. Unfortunately for FSU, the USF defense dug in its heels and forced a four-and-out to keep the game scoreless.
With a successful goal-line stand serving as a catalyst, the Bulls quickly flew down the field on their ensuing possession. After a few runs got USF away from their own goal, a 76-yard pass from Daniels to Theo Wilson on a blown FSU coverage got them into the redzone.
One play later, Daniels found tight end Ben Busbee for a nine-yard touchdown to put the Bulls on top 7-0.
On FSU’s very next drive, Ponder scrambled to the left and made a terrific 42-yard throw to Jarmon Fortson for an apparent touchdown. But a holding call on left tackle Andrew Datko negated the Seminole score and the team was unable to convert a long third down before having to punt with 6:26 to go in the first half.
The ‘Noles bad luck continued a few moments later when Taiwan Easterling fumbled the ball away just a few yards from the endzone. Again, USF didn’t waste any time capitalizing as Daniels tossed a 73-yard score to Sterling Griffin to give the Bulls a 14-0 halftime advantage.
The only good thing for FSU in the first half? Two missed USF field goals.
Florida State will now play against its second conference opponent of the year as the team will travel to play at Boston College on Saturday.