On a weekend when Warrick Dunn, Florida State's all-time leading rusher was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame, the Seminoles' ground game was showcased.
Tailback Greg Jones had a career-high 173 rushing yards and two touchdown on 21 carries in the Seminoles' 40-19 victory over Virginia Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The powerful Jones has posted four consecutive 100-yard games dating back to last season and has led FSU in rushing in eight of the last 10 games. He gained 113 yards on 22 carries in the Seminoles' season-opening victory against Iowa State.
"He's a beast," Dunn said of Jones.
Dunn, the Seminoles' all-time leading rusher with 3,959 yards, is in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons after spending his first five years in the NFL at Tampa Bay. He watched the game's first half from FSU's sidelines, catching an up-close glimpse of the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Jones.
"He's a different back from what you're used to seeing," Dunn said. "He has the physique of a linebacker. He's fast and he has great power. The thing that's scary is that he's so big, but he'll still put a move on you."
FSU needed Jones' moves a day when quarterback Chris Rix struggled throwing the football.
Jones picked up the slack against a Virginia defense that certainly remembered him and the Seminoles from last season. Jones recorded his first career 100-yard game and FSU rushed for a season-high 318 yards on 58 carries.
The Cavs, who tempted the Seminoles to run by rushing three and dropping as many as eight defenders into pass coverage, also surrendered 187 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries in their season-opening defeat to Colorado State Aug. 22 in the Jim Thorpe Classic.
"The offensive line did a great job of opening holes and the receivers blocked really well down field for us," said Jones, who has 507 rushing yards in FSU's last four games. "I didn't even know I had (career-high) 173 yards. It didn't really feel like it during the game."
Jones and fellow tailbacks Nick Maddox and Willie Reid give the Seminoles' impressive depth, not to mention production. FSU finished with 397rushing yards.
In fact, the Seminoles' rushing total was the most since FSU had 401 yards against Wake Forest on Oct. 14, 1995. The school record for most rushing yards is 479 yards against Western Carolina on Oct. 31, 1981.
On the flip side, the Seminoles only passed for 157 yards against the Cavs for a difference of 240 yards (pass versus run). The most lopsided offensive output in favor of rushing came on Nov. 17, 1984, against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. FSU rushed for 454 yards and passed for 164 in the 37-0 win, a difference of 290 yards.
"They picked how they wanted to be beat," Jones said of the Cavs. "The whole game, everyone was blocking. The coaches rotated us and we all kept fresh legs. When we do that, you can see what we can do. We have a lot of potential. The O-line, the receivers, you see what happened today. Still, we could have scored more points and had more yards, but as long as we come out with a win, I am happy."
FSU's running depth was on center stage.
In fact, that depth is so solid that Lorenzo Booker, considered the nation's top prep running back last year, announced last Wednesday he hopes to redshirt this season if FSU runners remain healthy. Fellow true freshman Leon Washington, the state's Mr. Football, contributed solely on special teams.
While Maddox contributed 61 rushing yards on seven carries and 20 receiving yards on a team-high three catches against the Cavs, the show belonged to Jones. Maddox didn't mind, though he knows two quality backs are better than one.
"We had a heckuva a game," Maddox said.
"When you have two talented guys like me and Greg, you are going to have productive things happen. Still, when you get past us, we have those other guys, too. Willie came in and had an awesome game(51 yards) and Leon Washington came in and went 17 yards. The best thing we have going for us is our depth. That depth is really going to work in our favor."
A smiling Maddox admitted he wouldn't mind if the Seminoles rely more on their running game. Ironically, Maddox and Reid also were the team's top two receivers –Reid had four receptions for 35 yards, while Maddox had three catches for 20 yards. Receivers Anquan Boldin, P.K. Sam, Craphonso Thorpe and Travis Smith combined on six receptions for 88 yards.
In fact, FSU opened the second half with a eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive that consisted of all rushes – five by Jones and three by Maddox. Jones had the scoring honors, busting in from 5-yards out to make it 30-0.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Maddox said. "You know what I am saying? I think the coaches recognize the talent we have on the offensive line and the talent we have in the backfield. If you are getting 15, 20 yards a carry, how can you go away from running the ball. I think the coaches recognize that. As long as you are gashing them with the run. ... I am Jones averaged 8.2 yards per carry with a long of 20 yards. Even more impressively, 100 of his rushing yards came during the Seminoles' first and last touchdown drives. And his timing couldn't have been better with Dunn on the sidelines. Jones is the first Seminole rusher with four consecutive 100-yard games since Dunn had six in 1995. Also, his total is the most rushing yards since Dunn had 174 yards in 1994.
"It was just magnificent running," FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton said. "He (Jones) ran to daylight well and when he encountered the enemy he broke tackles."