CLEMSON - FSU: Extra motivation

The focus for the Seminoles has taken a momentary detour.

Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, hoping to quell rumors and debate, chose Tuesday to formally announce his retirement after this season. Andrews has been FSU's defensive coordinator for 26 seasons.

He will remain involved, he said, until after the recruiting period ends on Feb. 10. But this is it. While Andrews implied prior to the season he would not coach again, and it was widely reported, there was never an official statement until now.

In anticipation of his retirement, Andrews and his wife, Diane, served as grand marshals in last week's homecoming parade.

Suddenly, Florida State (4-4, 2-3) has some extra emotion for Saturday night's game at Clemson.

"There has been a lot of speculation, and every time I turn around, somebody wants to know what's going to happen,'' said Andrews during a brief news conference where he answered just a couple questions. "And talking with Coach Bowden, it felt like it was time to go ahead and do it.

"It's just something, as much as I love Florida State and a lot of these guys back here -- time has just gotten so important for me now, and I can't coach football and do what I need to do with the responsibilities that I have got now. It's going to be hard on us, but it's something, it's just time."

Along with the health of quarterback Christian Ponder, who is battling bruised ribs, the Andrews' announcement has become the buzz around the team. It proved to be an emotional practice Tuesday. When it ended, defensive line coach Odell Haggins, who played for Andrews, hugged him and cried.

It even caused linebackers coach Chuck Amato to get teary-eyed as he joined the group.


FSU running back Jermaine Thomas is fresh off a 180+ yard performance in a 45-42 win over N.C. State. (AP)
The players have said they will rally around Andrews, but of course, that remains to be seen. As much as FSU's defense is trying to get better, the familiar personnel problems remain.

As for Ponder, he insists he will be ready.

"It wasn't as bad as I was expecting," Ponder said. "It was definitely a little sore. It's something I can overcome. It will be alright. It's football. It's a contact sport."

Asked about his chances of not playing at Clemson, Ponder replied: "Slim and none."

The reality for the Seminoles, however, no matter what is going on within their program, is that Clemson has taken aim at making the ACC championship game for the first time. A win against FSU would seal it. After all the years of the "Bowden Bowls,'' this will be the second time Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will be opposing Bowden.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Florida State is hoping its improved running game will be able to continue the effort against Clemson. The Seminoles have to make sure the Tigers are limited with their offensive possessions. FSU believes it can throw the ball well against anybody. But having usage of play-action and draws makes it easy to keep defenses from teeing off against QB Christian Ponder. He is not as effective right now as a runner due to a rib injury.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: There should be extra incentive, extra desire from FSU's defensive players to ensure defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews can have the best possible experience in his final four games. The players like Andrews and respect him. Now, it will be an issue of seeing if they can play better for him.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Any opportunity, any game, any time that I get to spend with him is special, and that I take to heart. For a man of his stature, it is going be very emotional for myself. I can't really explain it, it is just Mickey Andrews.? I really respect him as a man, and I look up to him." -- FSU LB Dekoda Watson on what it will be like playing for defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews in these final games before Andrews' retirement.

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