Oct. 27, 2000
This is the eighth of at least 11 weekly reports in the Baltimore Sun from former Dunbar star Tommy Polley, a senior linebacker for the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles.
Highlights: Forcing a fumble and sacking the quarterback in Florida State’s 37-3 victory over Virginia. The Polley-led defense held the Cavaliers to 199 total offensive yards and limited running back Antoine Womack to 63 yards on 24 carries. “We won and held a great back to under 100 yards. That is something we went into the game trying to do,” said Polley.
Said Virginia coach George Welsh: “I can’t remember any defense shutting us down like that in at least the last 12 years.”
Lowlights: “There weren’t too many. In fact, none that I can easily think of,” Polley said.
Tomahawk chop: Polley is ranked second among all defensive players with 22 tomahawks on his helmet. Florida State’s coaching and academic staffs award tomahawks to individual players for great plays and contributions on the field and in the classroom.
On nearly scoring (again): Polley recovered a fumble and returned the ball to the 1-yard line before being tackled short of the end zone in the first quarter against Virginia. On third-and-five on the Cavaliers’ third play from scrimmage, the ball was snapped over quarterback Bryson Spinner’s head. Polley recovered the fumble but was stopped a yard short of his second defensive touchdown of the season.
“People call me lucky,” Polley said. “I’ve just got a nose for the ball. Recovering the ball was great and I was surprised to be so close to the end zone. It was good to get the offense started at the 1-yard line.”
The Seminoles scored on a 1-yard run by fullback William McCray on the next play.
Tough final month: No. 6 Florida State plays at No. 22 North Carolina State on Saturday and plays host to No. 4 Clemson on Nov. 4 and No. 7 Florida on Nov. 18.
“The next four weeks are going to be exciting,” Polley said. “Those are the games you come to Florida State for … playing in big games. Playing ranked teams week in and week out and being on television. I really enjoy the stiff competition because I am a competitive person.”
The Seminoles will watch closely the outcomes of Saturday’s Nebraska vs. Oklahoma and Virginia Tech vs. Pittsburgh games.
Pupil vs. teacher: Florida State travels to North Carolina State to face former Seminoles assistant head coach Chuck Amato, now the Wolfpack’s head coach on Saturday. Amato was the Seminoles’ linebacker coach and tutored Polley during the first four years of his college career.
“Playing against Coach Amato is going to be exciting for me,” said Polley, who admits that he wouldn’t be a Butkus Award semifinalist without him. ” I care for the man a lot. He showed me the ropes and kept me in line when I was a young guy trying to learn the game. … Without him, I don’t know where I’d be as a player.”
De-fense, de-fense: Polley is a leader on Florida State’s defense, which is ranked eighth in the nation and allows only 279.4 yards per game. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 58, tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries and among the leaders with six tackles for lost yardage.
“We performed well last week despite a couple of penalties and some missed assignments,” Polley said. “When you are up 27-0 [in the first half] it is hard to keep the fire during four quarters. But overall, we are performing better than people may have expected us to.”
The Seminoles are ranked fourth in the nation in rushing defense (68.0 yards) and scoring defense (11.1 points).
Academic balance: Polley is on track to receive his bachelor’s degree in social science in May. Putting himself in position to earn his degree and become an All-American in the same season has not been easy.
“It has been hard at times,” said Polley, who is carrying 12 credit hours this semester. “I have really worked hard at keeping my academic focus. Going into this year, I wanted to earn my degree and play the best football of my career. A lot of my effort is for my mother. I think it will mean a lot to her when I do receive my degree.”