FSU defense steps up vs. Cougar's

Florida State had to wait a week for redemption. And looking to make a statement right out of the gate, FSU instead sputtered. Again. Coming off of a humbling 30-point loss at Oklahoma, FSU was locked in a mistake-riddled, grind-it-out contest with BYU.

In the end, it was the much-maligned FSU defense that played remarkably well and secured a 34-10 victory over BYU. The Seminoles shut down the Cougars in the second half. And on the day they recorded eight sacks, forced six punts and created two turnovers.

"It was huge for the season," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of the defense's performance. "Our team is learning to fight, fight through adversity, fight through ups and downs. And that is football.

"When you play good football and you play in good leagues and the competition we are playing, it is not going to be all roses."

The first half was more weed than rose. Chris Thompson had FSU's lone first-half offensive highlight: an 83-yard touchdown run down the sideline.

But in the third quarter, the Seminoles (2-1) came alive on offense as quarterback Christian Ponder engineered a pair of 14-play drives that resulted in touchdowns, the first a 2-yard TD pass to Ty Jones and the second a 1-yard keeper by Ponder.

Last year, FSU's offense was constantly bailing out the defense. The Seminoles were forced to win shootouts against the likes of N.C. State and Maryland.

The mandate to new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops wasn't to fix things immediately. FSU wasn't going to go from the 100th best defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision to one of the best overnight. The goal was to raise the morale of the players and simply make a few more plays here and there.

Force a punt or a turnover and give the ball back to the offense. That was the story on Saturday. FSU's defense played well, forcing two turnovers and three punts on BYU's first five drives. The Cougars answered back as true freshman quarterback Jake Heaps engineered two drives late in the second quarter that cut FSU's lead to 13-10 at the half.

But that was it. FSU forced BYU (1-2) to punt three straight times in the second half. The Cougars were held under 200 offensive yards.

"It was something that was needed," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "For our fans, for the team, for our coaches. We just had to go out there and show it."

With the exception of Mark Stoops, perhaps nobody had more to prove than cornerback Greg Reid. He had 10 tackles against Oklahoma, but it was the tackles that he missed and the resulting big plays that were indicative of both his day and his team's a week ago. The BYU game was a chance at redemption.

"We were ready to play today," FSU cornerback Greg Reid said. "We felt like we had to prove a point to our head coach, to our fans and to our DC (defensive coordinator) and that's what we did … We proved something, but we can get a lot better."

FSU will have to get better. BYU is a good team but not nearly as fast or as talented as many of the major ACC opponents the Seminoles will face over the next eight games. Wake Forest and Virginia may not push FSU to the limit the next two weeks, but then there are crucial conference games with the likes of Miami, Boston College, N.C. State, North Carolina and Clemson.

It's a tough challenge for FSU, the preseason pick to win the ACC's Atlantic Division. And while the prognosticators picked the Seminoles because of Ponder and the offense, the way the defense plays will have a lot to say about whether FSU will play in the ACC championship game come December.

For now, though, FSU can enjoy a victory. The Seminoles rebounded.

"We feel pumped up," FSU defensive end Brandon Jenkins said. "It feels like a chip came off our shoulder."


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