TSX Report: Florida State

The quarterback blamed himself. The coach blamed himself. At least this time for Florida State, the blame game followed a victory, the very kind of game the Seminoles have lost in recent years. Florida State (6-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) managed to bumble, stumble and beat Boston College 24-19, halting the coronation that the Seminoles are zooming back to elite status.

No ACC team has struggled with the Eagles as much as the Seminoles have in recent years.

"Like I've said before, we have not arrived," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We have a long way to go as a football team, and we have a lot of mistakes we have to get ironed out.

"But I did see a football team that would compete, that stayed together, that didn't panic and made enough plays to win a game."

The good news for Florida State is the team gets a week off to prepare for a Thursday night showdown Oct. 28 at North Carolina State that could put the winner in the driver's seat for the ACC Atlantic Division title. FSU has the best conference record in the league; it's the first time the Seminoles are 4-0 in the conference since 2004.

N.C. State lost a chance to gain Top 25 mention with its loss at rival East Carolina. That puts a different backdrop on the Oct. 28 game, but the contest will be no less important for the Seminoles.

After blowing out Miami, along with three other opponents since the Sept. 11 loss at Oklahoma, the Seminoles reaffirmed their weaknesses with their performance against Boston College. Right now, quarterback Christian Ponder doesn't look like same type of surgical passing demon that he was prior to his injury against Clemson last season.

Ponder had one of the worst days of his career, committing four turnovers -- three interceptions and a fumble -- against Boston College. One of those interceptions was a pick-six that trimmed FSU's lead to one point. When BC followed with a field goal, taking the lead, the worries and grumbles grew worse. Ponder got a major break when receiver Bert Reed took a reverse 42 yards for the go-ahead score, and FSU's defense held on.

"I gotta thank my teammates. They pulled me out of it," said Ponder, who was completed 19 of 31 passes. "I didn't really give us a chance, at all, to win, but the defense played really well, and the guys around me played really well and we were able to pull it out."

Said Reed: "It's been a long time since we won a game like this, a tough game where the other team may not be as good but is going to fight you. We showed some fight. We punched back. That says something about us."

In this off week, however, Fisher and Ponder have to figure a way to get the passing game in a higher gear, or the season could suddenly head in reverse.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Seminoles became bowl-eligible, attaining a sixth victory in the shortest time since the 2000 season. The Seminoles have been to a bowl game in 28 consecutive seasons -- the longest active streak in the nation.

--Part of the focus on the BC game was how many people would show up to watch. After having an embarrassing 20,000-plus empty seats in the last home game against Wake Forest, a crowd announced at 75,301 gave Doak Campbell Stadium its best atmosphere of the season. While there were pockets of empty bleachers in the upper reaches, the crowd was loud and into the game. It was the Seminoles' largest home crowd of the season, but still about 8,000 short of a sellout.

--QB Christian Ponder, despite his struggles, finished with 170 yards passing and now has 6,015 career passing yards. That's good enough to surpass Thad Busby (5,916 yards) for sixth place among the school's all-time leaders. Danny Kanell (6,372) is fifth.

--The Seminoles' seven-play, 96-yard touchdown drive against Boston College late in the second quarter represented Florida State's longest scoring drive of the season.

GAME BALL GOES TO: DE Brandon Jenkins -- He led the defensive effort with nine tackles, including six solo stops and 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He had quarterback sacks and was credited with two quarterback hurries. Basically, a one-man wrecking crew against the Boston College offense and part of an FSU defense that saved the day for QB Christian Ponder and the Seminoles' stumbling offense.

KEEP AN EYE ON: P Shawn Powell -- He's part of FSU's outstanding special teams this season, and he repeatedly delivered booming kicks against BC when FSU needed them the most. He averaged 50.8 yards on five punts, including a 58-yard punt. He twice pinned BC inside its 20 to flip field position. The Eagles returned three of Powell's punts for only 12 yards. A junior, Powell has provided the Seminoles with solid punting all season, but he hasn't been needed as he was in this game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The good teams I've been around and the great seasons I've been around, you find a way to win one or two ballgames like this -- where you don't play your 'A' game. That's what I'm happiest about, that our kids didn't fluster and didn't panic." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, on his team's struggles in its win over Boston College.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

LOOKING GOOD: The Seminoles' defense. After allowing a 72-yard running play on the very first play of the game, FSU's defense carried the team, while the offense committed four turnovers, all by quarterback Christian Ponder. The Seminoles' linebacker corps, in particular was outstanding in taking away BC's running game and some of the short passes the Eagles were trying to make. FSU's defense won the game, as Ponder was quit to point out. And this performance continued the season pattern that has existed since the Sept. 11 Oklahoma disaster.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Seminoles have to figure out a way to throw the ball downfield, because teams are starting to jump the flanker screens and the quick outs that FSU is trying. The issue with Ponder's health, specifically his arm strength, is causing alterations in the playbook. But FSU has to start making teams respect its vertical passing game, or teams will easily stack the line of scrimmage and dare the Seminole to throw with Ponder.

ROSTER REPORT:

--With nearly a full week off between games, the Seminoles have to hope QB Christian Ponder (elbow) can heal and get stronger on his throws. He has not looked like the same quarterback he was last season prior to his shoulder injury. It seems this season it has been a variety of minor injuries that are affecting him. He describes the latest as a bursa sac injury to his right elbow.

It happened during the Boston College game, Ponder said, on a scrambling run.

"I hit the ground and I must have just hit it right," Ponder said. "There's that little sac in your elbow and I came right down on my elbow on the ground and it swelled up."

But FSU coach Jimbo Fisher made it clear he never considered replacing Ponder with capable backup E.J. Manuel. The feeling seems to be that Ponder will be refreshed after a week off and maybe the nagging injuries won't be so bad.

--TB Ty Jones (ankle) returned for the first time in two games and his presence was huge. Jones, the Seminoles' biggest tailback, twice converted plays with his sheer strength and willpower on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 to help sustain drives and keep the emotional edge on FSU's side.

"We had some crucial short-yardage plays and he's a big back and is able to lower his shoulder and get those few yards," Ponder said. "He's still battling an ankle injury but that was huge for him to go out there and do what he did."

--DE Everette Dawkins (hand) suffered the Seminoles' most significant injury.


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