Special Effort

Florida State's special teams have played a big role in the Seminoles' success thus far this season. B.J. Ward blocked his third kick against Duke last Saturday to set a school record. Leon Washington earned ACC honors Monday and leads the conference in punt returns. Plus, kicker Xavier Beitia has converted 7-of-9 field goals. "We're definitely kicking every opportunity we can get where as last year we might have gone for it," Beitia said.

Florida State is well known for its high-flying offense and tenacious defense but lurking in the bushes is a special teams core that is quietly bringing opponents to their knees.

Against Duke, free safety B.J. Ward blocked a field goal attempt in the first quarter to prevent the Blue Devils from taking an almost unthinkable lead. But Ward, who had two other blocked field goals this season before Saturday doesn't see his efforts as a big deal even though with his third blocked field goal of the season, he broke FSU's single season record of two previously held by J.T. Thomas and career record of two held by Thomas and Alphonso Carreker.

"I go out there and jump," Ward said. "Whenever they call my number I just go out there and do what I have to do."

Though Ward's efforts may not be getting much attention, head coach Bobby Bowden has noticed that his special teams has been getting the job done.

"We blocked another field goal and that was good," Bowden said. "Our special teams was very productive."

So productive that they both contributed to FSU's slaughtering of Duke on offense, and prevented points from being scored by the Blue Devils.

In the second quarter, Craphonso Thorpe had the longest kickoff return of the season at 38 yards. Later in the quarter, Leon Washington had the longest punt return of the season at 32 yards. Both drives led to Florida State touchdowns.

In the third quarter, Washington pounced on a FSU punt that ricocheted off of Duke cornerback John Paul Kimbrough's leg, which resulted in yet another touchdown for the 'Noles -- it also represented Washington's first career score.

On Monday, Washington was voted the Atlantic Coast Conference's specialist of the week for his effort. Washington made two special teams tackles, including one at the 16 on kickoff coverage. He returned three punts for 47 yards with a season long of 32, and also returned a kickoff for 26 yards. Washington leads the ACC and ranks eighth nationally in punt return average

And of course, the anchor of Florida State's special teams cannot be left out, place kicker Xavier Beitia. Beitia is 7-9 on the season in field goals and went 2-3 against Duke.

After four games last season, FSU had only attempted five field goals, which is a sign, according to Beitia that the Seminole coaches are getting used to the idea of having a solid kicker again.

"We're definitely kicking every opportunity we can get where as last year we might have gone for it," Beitia said. "I think since I had a good season last year (the coaches) have more confidence in me and they are not afraid to turn to me on fourth down."

Beitia realizes his responsibilities have heightened with the renewed confidence in Florida State's kicking game, but those are responsibilities he's willing to handle now, in preparation for when one kick could mean the difference between victory and disaster.

"(The coaches) know especially this year we have a great team, we have a chance to make the national championship so they're trying to get me used to (kicking a lot) for when we go down and play teams like Miami I'm going to have to make every kick a big kick," Beitia said.

But Beitia's duties go beyond kicking as he displayed on Saturday, stopping a potential touchdown after tackling Duke wide receiver Senterrio Landrum in the third quarter when he was left as FSU's last line of defense on a punt return.

"Anything I can do to help I don't mind," Beitia said. "Wherever they want to use me is fine."


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