In stark contrast to a season ago, the FSU offense has been adept at moving the ball, especially through the air. Averaging 297 yards per game, the Seminoles lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in passing offense after finishing next to last in the category a season ago.
"We have so many different guys that can make plays out there," quarterback Drew Weatherford said. "Receivers feed off of the running backs. Receivers feed off of other receivers. Everyone feeds off of each other.
"It makes it tough for opposing defenses when eight or nine of your guys are a threat to score at any time."
Weatherford said that a large amount of credit is to tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, who have made opposing defenses wary "because of the way they ran it last season."
The quarterback pointed out two cause-and-effect instances in FSU's 38-14 victory over Syracuse this past Saturday.
Greg Carr, owner of four touchdown catches in the two games prior, played a red herring role in Weatherford's touchdown strike to Chris Davis on FSU's first drive following halftime. The threat of a fade to the 6-6 Carr enticed double coverage from the safety on his side. The middle of the field now open, Weatherford found Davis streaking across the endzone on a crossing pattern.
Weatherford was so excited about the evident opportunity that he forgot the play-action fake to the running back that the play called for.
Further aerial success opened up the screen play as a weapon to burn Syracuse's ears-pinned-back pass rushing efforts. A clairvoyant Booker burned the Orange for a 71-yard touchdown.
The shifty tailback said that he felt so good about the call that he predicted that he would take the screen pass the distance to his huddling teammates during the preceding TV timeout.
"I got a lot of looks like, ‘we ‘re about to see what's under your hood'," Booker said. "But we were all laughing about it in the end zone. It's good to give the guys around you confidence with a play like that."
WATKINS GUTS ONE OUT
Despite concern that he wouldn't be able to play last weekend because of a shoulder injury he sustained late last week, free safety Pat Watkins assumed his normal centerfield spot for the Seminoles.
The senior from Tallahassee was credited for two tackles and a pass breakup and was even flagged for unnecessary roughness against the Orange.
"If you would have asked me Friday, I would have said that there is no way he was going to play," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "But he did pretty good for a guy who was having to hold one arm up (earlier in the week)."
"I was fortunate that it let me get through the game," said Watkins, who said the soreness has almost subsided. "I went out there to give it a shot and got comfortable when I started getting into (the rhythm) of the game."
SHORT KAMERION WIMBLEY Q&A
Senior defensive end Kamerion Wimbley's play is a big reason that the Seminoles rank third in the NCAA in sacks. With 19 in four games so far this season (4.75 a game), FSU trails just Louisville (20) and Nebraska (26).
What can you attribute this sack influx to?
We work real hard in one-on-one's to defeat the blocker first. A lot of young guys have a tendency to look into the backfield and worry about what's going on there before they beat their man. Coach Allen and coach Andrews have been stressing to us to think about our man first and then worry about the passer or the maybe the runner and that helps out a lot.
How much stock do you put in being one of the nation's best in the category?
I didn't even know that we were ranked that high. Our motivation is to improve on what we did the last game. We are graded for everything that we do and you don't want to come back and have a lower grade than the week before. Of course you have to play harder or you can try and focus on something that you didn't do very well the last time out. the results will show on the field.
It seems like the secondary and the front have been feeding off one another all season.
We are doing a lot of prevent coverage in ‘Tiger' (3-4). We'll rush three guys and drop more guys back into coverage. Basically we are depending on three defensive linemen to win against five offensive linemen most of the time. Whereas, if you send more people, you're more likely to have your defensive backs get beat. I think with the loss of (Antonio) Cromartie, we've been doing that in the hopes that it'll help the coverage and it's actually made us better up front. Now we can get back there with just three since the DBs have help. Even though there a more guys (to beat), we have more time to get back there.
How much does going to the three-man front change your responsibilities?
When we are not doing a stunt, it's just a little more difficult (for me) because I have to beat two men. Sometimes we'll get out noseguard isolated on the center. A lot of times Andre (Fluellen) will have a one-on-one and the other two guys will be doubled so we're depending on that guy to beat his man and get a sack. If that one man doesn't beat his guy, the quarterback could be just standing back there for awhile.
The No. 4 ranked Florida State Seminole worked for 21 periods Tuesday before some light rain showers dusted Tallahassee. The team has put an emphasis on assignments this week as they are set to take on a Wake Forest team that has some success against them with their misdirection offense.
O'Neal finally makes an impact
Entering the 2005 season, redshirt freshman Kenny O'Neal was penciled in at the receiver spot just behind veterans Chris Davis and Willie Reid and second-year man De'Cody Fagg. It seemed that everyone was talking about how No. 4 was all but guaranteed to be FSU's long-ball threat.
Heading into the game against Syracuse, O'Neal had just two catches and had yet to gain a large chunk of yardage. In the past two games, the Oakland , Ca. native was almost non-existent in the aerial resurgence shown by the Garnet and Gold offense.
On Saturday, however, the speedster finally got the chance to showcase his wheels as he hooked up with Xavier Lee on a 75-yard pass play in the fourth quarter.
"They gave me a chance and I took advantage of it," O'Neal said. "I just want to keep getting better because I am confident that I can help this team. Hopefully the next games I will get more chances."
In addition to what Seminole fans, coaches and fellow players all hope was his breakout receiving game, O'Neal also may have worked his way into a more prominent role on the kick return team.
Through four games this season, FSU has rotated several talented athletes into the KR spot but O'Neal's 39-yard return against the Orange was the longest of the season.
"Coach told me I was doing good back there and that he wanted to get me in (to the game)," O'Neal said. "I got in and I think I did okay. I am practicing more doing it so I can be the guy when it's game time."
If Florida State needed any extra insurance when the offense stalled, it's comes from P Chris Hall.
Hall's punts have been returned for a total of 16 yards this season. The Seminoles' net punting (38.41 yards per game) is ranked 18 in Division I-A.
"It's been a combination of everything going good," Hall said. "The gunners play the biggest part. They can cover up any mistakes."
Maybe more impressive is the streak held by deep snapper Myles Hodish. He has sent 178 consecutive clean snaps to Hall, who handles all the placement duties.
"He hasn't had any that bounce or are over my head and a lot of times that's something that happens at a lot of programs," Hall said. "Mistakes like that will get you beat real quick."
- ESPN crews will follow the team around for next two weeks to film an episode of "The Season"
- DE Darrell Burston missed his second consecutive day of practice due to a shoulder injury. The junior underwent and MRI, the results of which have not been disclosed.
Tuesday's Premium Football Notebook
Nole Digest Top Stories
History On FSU's Side With Top-5 RankingFlorida State was ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP Poll, and their history says that's a good sign for Seminole fans.
FSU No. 4 In Preseason AP PollFlorida State will start the season as a preseason Top-5 team.
FSU QB Malik Henry SuspendedFlorida State will be without quarterback Malik Henry indefinitely.
FSU 8/20 Practice Report and HighlightsFlorida State went through their first practice of Saturday's two-a-days in pads.