Iron Man

<b>Florida State's</b> defense is receiving plenty of accolades these days -- with good reason. The unit is ranked second nationally against the run, giving up a paltry 68.7 yards per game. The Seminoles also lead lead the country in fewest yards allowed per carry (2.13) and are tied for the lead in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (one) along with Auburn. One player who is earning plenty of praise is junior <b>Pat Watkins,</b> who played 80 plays against Wake Forest last Saturday.

Florida State's defense is coming to play.

Each game. Each quarter. Each snap.

For starters, the Seminoles have not give up an offensive touchdown in the last 11 quarters, going back to a Syracuse touchdown in the first quarter. FSU rank second nationally in rushing defense, eighth in total defense and ninth in scoring defense.

Heroes are everywhere.

Linebacker Ernie Sims was named the Atlantic Coast Conference's defensive player of the week on Monday for the second consecutive week. No wonder.

Ho-hum, he has 17 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three quarterback hurries, one blocked punt and a pass breakup the past two games against Virginia and Wake Forest.

Tackle Travis Johnson is second in the ACC with 12 tackles for loss this season. And let's not forget about rover Jerome Carter, who led the defense in tackles for the second straight game with nine (all solo) at Wake Forest.

Junior free safety Pat Watkins also continues to shine.

He was the Seminoles' iron man against the Demon Deacs, registering a team-high 80 plays despite suffering from neck and ankle injuries.

Watkins, gracious and personable, doesn't mind the extra duty.He's also a pivotal part of FSU's special teams.

"Whew. I played a lot. I am a little sore but it's nothing serious," Watkins said and smiled following Monday's practice.

"I figured it's something I am going to have to go through. Playing a lot of plays is one of them. They recruited me because they knew I was the kind of athlete who loves to play. I just feel like if they are going to put me out on the field I am going to play as hard as I can until I can't play anymore."

Watkins has been backed up Roger Williams while B.J. Ward continues to recover from an assortment of injuries this season.

FSU's defense also has been plagued by hurts as end Eric Moore and tackle Brodrick Bunkley are looking to return against Maryland after missing time with ankle injuries.

"Those guys are a big part of our defense," Watkins said.

"Teams are running a little harder, running right at us. Like I said, we just try to step it up. We look at it as a challenge to get to No. 1. We don't feel like we are the (eighth) ranked defense in the country. We feel like we are No. 1 and every week we are going to go out there and try to prove it."

Watkins said defensive players can't afford to pace themselves. That's why he's no longer on kickoff coverage so he won't overextend himself.

While Watkins did not miss any conditioning drills last summer, he admitted he didn't expect to register this many plays this year due to Ward's presence.

Injuries, however, can shuffle a depth chart.

Like Watkins, FSU's defense has answered.

Oveall, FSU is allowing 68.7 yards per game rushing, 197 yards per game in passing, 265.7 yards of total offense per game and only 13.4 points per game.

The unit is stepping up in the second half as well, allowing an average of 18.0 rushing yards, 100.9 passing yards, 118.9 yards of total offense and 5.7 points.

"I am trying to push as hard as I can," Watkins said.

"If I need to come out. If I am tired and I know I can't play -- I am not going to do anything to hurt the team. There's no selfishness on the defense.

"I took a couple of spills (against Wake Forest). I landed on my neck one play -- I got hit late. I rolled my ankle a little bit and it was throbbing. But you have to play through a little aches and bruises. Being hurt is part of the game."

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