Defensive Tone

Florida State's defense continues to play well. The Seminoles held highly-touted Clemson quarterback <b>Charlie Whitehurst</b> to just 88 yards passing. It was the first time FSU has surrendered less than 100 passing yards since Wake Forest failed to reach the century mark in 1996. There's plenty more impressive statistics as FSU concludes preparations for Saturday's home date against North Carolina. Click here for the details.

Florida State's defense is making the most of its opportunities this season.

For instance:

FSU has allowed a total of four touchdowns this season and just two in the last two games against UAB and Clemson. FSU is tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with just one rushing touchdown allowed and tied for fourth with three touchdown passes allowed.

FSU leads the ACC and ranks fourth nationally in rush defense, giving up just 56.7 yards per game. Opponents also are just averaging 1.98 yards per carry against the Seminoles. The 1997 team was the last to keep opposing runners under two yards per carry, allowing 1.5 yards per rush.

FSU currently ranks fourth nationally and third in the ACC in total defense (227.0 yards per game). Five ACC teams rank among the NCAA top 15 in total defense with North Carolina State first at 165.3 FSU's defense gave up an average of 332 yards per game last season.

The Seminoles' secondary also is making plenty of noise.

For three straight weeks, a Tallahassee Lincoln High product has recorded interceptions for the Seminoles. Antonio Cromartie had a pick in the opener against Miami and Pat Watkins has registered interceptions the past two games against UAB and Clemson.

Not to be outdone, cornerback Leroy Smith returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown against the Tigers. Smith's pick marks the sixth consecutive year a Seminole defender has returned at least one pick for a score.

FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews says he's looking for solid play from his seasoned secondary.

"The biggest thing is there's some talent back there, all of them played last year – some of them played more than a year," Andrews said.

"They ought to be more effective at it because it's a seasoned group back there. But I think any of those guys will tell you as quickly as I will that most of the time, an intercept is a result of good pressure [on the quarterback]. You can't base it just on great play back there and being a great athlete. That helps, but we play against passers that are going to put the ball where you can't intercept it if you don't have pressure."

Andrews believes FSU's biggest play defensively against the Tigers just might be overlooked. That's when the Seminoles stopped Clemson's two-point conversion attempt, which would have tied the game at 24-24.

"It was a bigger play than a lot of people recognized at the time," Andrews said.

"The defense we were [in], we were defending the pass a little more than the run because of the formation. They're on the 3-yard line and they run a play that they hurt us with during the game, and we were able to step up and make a stop. Our front people and then our backers and safeties closed on the ball, and we were able to keep them out of the end zone. That was a huge play.

"We were trying to pick out the play of the game defensively, and we said, ‘Well, maybe Leroy's because it gave us the touchdown.' But I'm not so sure that fifth-down stop down there on the two-point play might have been just as big.


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