Sept. 17, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As a road underdog to the No. 7 team in the country, Florida State has declared Saturday’s game at Brigham Young a “Sod Game” – the opportunity to triumphantly bring back a chunk of grass and dirt from LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The significance of such a feat is not taken lightly by senior linebacker and defensive captain Dekoda Watson, who has been designated as the sod captain for the quest.
“I’m going to take pride in it and I think it’s an important game, not only for the sod, but our reputation, too,” said Waton. “I’m going to make sure that we get the job done and come home with the (win).”
A Seminoles’ victory over the Cougars, who are riding an 18-game home winning streak, would do wonders for a program reaching for a return to lofty heights. FSU is still battling uphill in the wake of a season-opening 38-34 loss to Miami and narrow, 19-9 escape against Jacksonville State last weekend.
“I think this is a huge opportunity and there’s one thing we’re going to have to do, and that’s seize it,” Watson said.
Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher couldn’t agree more. In fact, he drove that point home as the team gathered around him at midfield following Thursday’s practice.
“Like I told our kids … it’s a toughness game, it’s a character game, it’s an execution game,” Fisher said. “We’re gonna have to be tough. We’re on the road. It’s gonna be a hostile crowd. Everybody’s against us; us against the world. They’re a physically tough football team. They hit. They’re strong.
“We’re gonna have to have character. We’re gonna have to reach down deep inside because it’s gonna be a battle. I mean it’s gonna be one heck of a battle and there’s gonna be good things and bad things (happen). Everyone will have to learn to keep grinding through. Which is the one thing we have done, even when we weren’t having success. We were still fighting and clawing and scratching and doing the things we’ve got to do.”
The Seminoles (1-1) will face their stiffest challenge of the still-young season against a BYU defense that returns seven starts and is yielding only 8 points a game. The Cougars like to blitz, which will leave a lot of important decisions in the hands of junior quarterback Christian Ponder.
“I’m preparing for them to blitz.,” Ponder said “I think the schemes they do, they’ll have three down lineman and they’ll bring a bunch of guys. … It will be tough but we’ve studied a bunch of film and we’re focused on it and we’ll see what happens.”
To that end, Watson has liked what he’s seen from his defensive teammates this past week in preparation for the Cougars.
“We bounced back,” said Watson. “I feel like we’ve improved a lot. … Everybody’s running to the football and I think that’s going to pay off in the game.
“There’s going to be a lot of collisions. Both of the teams are going to be hyped. They’ll be playing at home and we have a good challenge ahead of us. It’s going to be a very exciting game.”
Ultimately, Fisher said the team that controls its emotions and executes with the greatest efficiency should have the edge. The Seminoles have had mixed success in recent outings of similar magnitude. They have won four of the last seven meetings with top 10 opponents Getting another game of separation from the .500 mark
“Then the most important thing is it’s going to be an execution game,” Fisher added. “When the game is on the line in those big moments, can you execute under the pressure and the situations that you have? And maybe that’s why we’ve played these two games like we have, to prepare us to go in there and do that. Like I say, maybe the good Lord that first game, things didn’t turn out our way because He’s testing us.”
Regardless, FSU coach Bobby Bowden and his staff will know a lot more about the 2009 Seminoles on the flight home from the first road game of the season. Bronco Mendenhall’s Cougars will see to that.
“I think you really will because it’s gonna be a tough one,” Fisher said. “Whether it turns out good or bad, we’re going out there guns blazing. I mean we’re going in there and we’re coming to play the game hard. We’ll keep coaching and get better. But I think we have a good football team, I really do. I just think sometimes you’ve just got to reach down there and push a little more and some other good things will come out of it.”
The Seminoles will arrive at that juncture shortly after touching down in Utah.