Sept. 15, 2012
By: Brandon Mellor (@BrandonMellor), Seminoles.com Managing Editor
Chris Thompson wasn’t going to ever forget this game anyway considering the circumstances. But a career-high 197 yards and two touchdowns make it all the more special.
Through three games in 2012, FSU is allowing its opponents to score an average of just one point per contest.
Michael Campanaro came into the game with 22 receptions through two games for Wake Forest this year but had just two Saturday.
Eleven different Seminoles caught a pass in the 52-0 win, marking the third time this year that at least 10 different players caught a pass in a game.
Chris Thompson averaged 21.9 yards per carry against Wake Forest.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Chris Thompson had been thinking about this one for a long time, going over and over in his head his in-game assignments and responsibilities while also managing the emotions of playing against the team that nearly ended his career a year ago.
He never could have imagined it would play out like this.
In No. 5/6 Florida State’s convincing 52-0 win against Wake Forest Saturday, Thompson rushed for a career-high 197 yards — including two scoring touchdowns of more than 70 yards — despite only playing in the first two quarters. It was vintage big-play Thompson leaving a defense in pieces, made all the more special because it was against a team that quite literally broke him a year ago.
Eleven months after sustaining two fractured vertebrae in a 35-30 loss at Wake Forest, Thompson left this year’s Atlantic Division showdown with the game ball rather than a career-threatening injury.
“There was nothing like it, I have been pretty much waiting for this moment for a while,” Thompson said. “To open up against an ACC team and for it to be the Wake game was such a big deal due to the fact of what happened last year.”
“What a difference a year makes,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher added. “… It’s amazing. It can’t happen to a better young man. I’m very proud of him today. I’m very proud of our team.”
Thompson’s performance was a feel-good story but it doesn’t overshadow what the ‘Noles’ defense continues to do.
The Seminoles had allowed a combined three points in blowout wins over Murray State and Savannah State and the no-touchdown trend continued despite the increase in competition. The last time FSU didn’t allow a touchdown in three consecutive games was in 1964.
Outside of a 34-yard rush in the first quarter by Josh Harris and a 41-yard reception by Sherman Ragland in the third quarter, Wake Forest’s offense was kept in check and held to just 126 of total offense and 2.1 yards on average per play. The Demon Deacons were held to just seven first downs, only converted 1-of-16 third-down conversion chances and had to punt 13 times.
Wake Forest never got into the redzone either.
“That’s what your pride yourself on on defense is dominating,” sophomore defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said.
Jernigan and junior linebacker Christian Jones led the Seminoles with six tackles before being pulled for the reserves in time for the fourth quarter. Junior defensive end Bjoern Werner continued his early-season tear with 1 1/2 sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for loss to harass Demon Deacons quarterback Tanner Price — the ACC’s quarterback of the week — and help limit him to just 82 yards passing.
Cornellius Carradine also had a career-best 2 1/2 sacks.
Josh Harris was the last opponent to rush for 100 yards on the Seminoles but Saturday he was held to just 51 yards, too. Michael Campanaro, who led the nation in catches per game and was coming off a 13-catch performance in a win over North Carolina, had just two grabs for a paltry eight yards.
“Against a quarterback and receivers that are good players, now,” Fisher said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and, again, that was the key. Our defense was very dominant. They contested all the throws.”
Thompson’s 197 yards were a school record for most rushing yards in an opening half but he wasn’t the only one updating records. FSU, which posted 612 yards of total offense, has now scored at least 50 points in three consecutive games for the first time in the program’s storied history and became the first ACC team to ever accomplish that feat to start the season.
Thompson didn’t have to play in the second half and sophomore James Wilder, Jr. added 94 yards on 16 carries while Manuel added 48 yards on the ground and one touchdown on an option play. Fullback Debrale Smiley added another touchdown run and 30 rushing yards as FSU finished with 385 yards on the ground.
|Chris Thompson Interview
A year after rushing for just 289 yards through the opening three games, FSU has rattled off 837 yards on the ground through three contests in 2012.
“We are confident and trust each other more now,” senior fullback Lonnie Pryor said. “You’ve seen early on that we’ve got a lot of guys that can carry the football effectively.”
FSU’s starting quarterback got the Seminoles on the board for the first time against Wake Forest with a 16-yard run at 4:28 mark of the first quarter after being set up by a 33-yard Thompson dash.
FSU then quickly pushed its lead to 14-0 thanks to sophomore wide receiver Rashad Greene’s 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. The special-teams score was Greene’s second punt return of the season as he became the first Seminole to register multiple return touchdowns since Willie Reid in 2005.
“I just saw my guys in great position for blocks and they basically opened it up for me,” Greene said. “I probably made one person miss and the rest was done by our return team.”
The second quarter then started with some Thompson magic. His touchdown runs of 74 and 80 yards occurred within 3:10 of one another and effectively closed the door on Wake Forest’s chances.
Thompson had entered the game with three touchdowns of 70 yards or more after becoming a home-run threat as a sophomore in 2010. He exited Saturday’s ball game with two more to his credit while pushing his career rushing totals to 1,302 yards.
On each of his long runs, FSU’s wide receivers and tight ends helped contribute with critical downfield blocks.
“[The offensive line] has got to get you the first [yards] and after that you’ve got to be able to block down field” Fisher said. “We are big, we are athletic and we are physical. We need to be blocking like that all the time.”
Following a 19-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal, Smith added his 20-yard touchdown from reception with 14 seconds left in the second quarter. Shaw’s 17-yard touchdown catch and Smiley’s 19-yard scoring run then accounted for the ‘Noles 14 second-half points.
The national college-football spotlight now shifts to Tallahassee for Florida State’s Sept. 22 game against divisional foe Clemson. The Seminoles and Tigers will tussle at 8 p.m. live in front of a national audience at 8 p.m.