Nov. 12, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The first question Florida State offensive coordinator fielded following Thursday’s practice was the one on everyone’s mind as the Seminoles prepare for Saturday’s game at Wake Forest.
Is redshirt freshman quarterback EJ Manuel ready to make his first start?
“I think so,” said Fisher. “It’s time to take the training wheels off and find out.”
Manuel makes his first start against the Demon Deacons against a daunting back-drop. Not only is he replacing injured starter and ACC passing leader Christian Ponder, he will be at the controls as the Seminoles try and take one step closer to extending their nation-leading streak of 27 consecutive bowl appearances.
“Each day I’ve just built more and more confidence within myself, knowing that I am able to lead this offense,” Manuel said, with his first week as the starter under his belt.
Manuel’s teammates appear confident that the Parade All-American out of Virginia Beach, Va. is up to the challenge.
“I think EJ made a lot of strides from just being a No. 2 quarterback to a No. 1 quarterback,” said Bert Reed, FSU’s top receiver. “I think he’s handled it very well. I think it’s more of a responsibility on us receivers to make sure the play calls are right and just make sure everything is how it’s supposed to be.”
One of the primary focuses this week in practice has been establishing some chemistry between Manuel and his receivers on the practice field.
“With us playing these nine games with Christian, we don’t have the same time with EJ, so that’s something we’ve worked on a lot this week,” Reed said. “Just having the same timing and getting to the spot where you’re supposed to get and helping him get the time down also.”
Though the Seminoles (4-5, 2-4 ACC) don’t need additional motivation, the chance to move within a victory of bowl eligibility by beating the Demon Deacons (4-6, 2-4) – who have won the last three meetings – is on their minds.
“It’s very important to extend that bowl streak,” said senior cornerback Patrick Robinson. “We’re not coming in here to lose games or anything like that. We’re definitely trying to win these next three games and also extend that bowl streak.”
Senior wide receiver Rod Owens echoed Robinson.
“It all starts with this game,” said Owens. “We want to keep the (bowl) tradition alive. We don’t want to be known as the team that let that end.”
As an added bonus, the Seminoles can end Wake Forest’s modest, but school-record, consecutive bowl appearance streak at three with a victory.
When asked what it will take to beat the Demon Deacons for the first time since 2005, Owens offered a simple explanation: “Just doing what you’re supposed to do. A lot of people take that for granted.”