Three Aces

<b>Leon Washington's </b> healthy, <b>Lorenzo Booker's </b> happy and <b>Greg Jones </b> is, well, <b>Greg Jones. </b> For the first time since Florida State's season-opener against North Carolina Aug. 30, the Seminoles' three-headed tailback contributed in a big way in Saturday's 48-24 victory over Wake Forest at Doak Campbell Stadium.

How big?

Well, the trio combined for 339 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, peppering the Demon Deacons from nearly every direction.

"We've got a lot of football left and we are going to need every one of them," FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton said.

Washington led the way, turning in a special effort on special teams.

He set a FSU single-game record with 159 yards on seven punt returns, including a 65-yarder for a touchdown in the second quarter to help the fifth-ranked Seminoles (7-1) upend the Demon Deacons (4-4) for the 12 consecutive time. The victory also assured FSU at least a share of its 11th Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Leading just 10-7 after one quarter, Washington changed the game's complexion in one mad dash on a punt return.

Washington fielded the partially blocked kick on the run and headed straight up the field nearly untouched for FSU's first punt return for a score since 1999.

The run helped Washington snap a 29-year-old record for punt return yards, set by Bobby Jackson against Virginia Tech in 1974 (137 yards). Washington also contributed 30 rushing yards on six carries and added one reception for 18 yards.

"By the time I caught it, everybody had just about out-ran me," said Washington, who missed four games after suffering a dislocated elbow on a punt return in the season's second game against Maryland Sept. 29.

"I just got the ball and took it straight up the field, so that was a pretty good feeling. It just feels good coming back from injury to contribute. Contributing to the offense and special teams is my main thing. It just felt good to make plays again."

Booker, meanwhile, was all smiles as well. He landed in the doghouse following his crucial fumble in the defeat to Miami two weeks ago and was limited to one carry in last Saturday's victory at Virginia.

A disgruntled Booker met with coaches earlier in the week to discuss his role. He made the most of his opportunity against Wake Forest, finishing with 33 rushing yards on seven carries and 39 passing yards on four receptions.

"Miami was kind of like shooting myself in the foot because I fumbled," Booker said.

"You get back in the game later but it kind of makes the coaches lose confidence in you. So, I am glad they didn't loose that confidence in me and they stuck me back in the game today and I was able to make some plays. I have to build on that. It's hard to gain confidence if you are not out there playing. It's definitely a starting point for me. I thought I came out and did well. There's a lot of room for improvement, so I have to build on that."

Jones, the Seminoles' leading rusher who is not "100 percent but he's getting a little stronger every week" following reconstructive knee surgery last season, according to Sexton, turned in a solid effort.

Jones, who blew out his knee at Wake Forest last season, had a team-high 60 yards on 12 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown to push FSU‘s advantage to 41-17 in the third quarter. He has 156 rushing yards the past two games, his best stretch of the season.

Better yet, the trio of Jones, Washington and Booker appear to be finally in sync.

The unit combined for 173 rushing yards in the Seminoles' opener against the Tar Heels. But the good times didn't last. Washington was injured in that game, and Booker missed three games due to knee and ankle sprains.

"Without me and Leon and Greg all in the lineup, the running game really doesn't work very well," Booker said.

"I think we need each other, to tell you the truth. It's only going to make us better. Guys are falling all over the place from Leon making them miss, me making them miss and then they have to stand in there and try to tackle Greg head up. I think it definitely gives us advantage because you don't know really what to expect. So you can't really set your defense set on stopping one thing."

Washington agreed:

"When Greg is in there, he's pounding, pounding and pounding," he said. "By the time me and Book get in there, guys are worn down. We just try to make guys miss and pound guys a little bit. We get in there and things really change direction."


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