Week 8: Florida State

Pack Pride previews NC State's upcoming opponent, Florida State. The Seminoles feature a high-powered offense led by quarterback Christian Ponder and one of the country's best defenses.

Florida State Game Notes

‘Noles seek to extend streak against ‘Pack
Florida State will seek its fourth consecutive victory over NC State when the teams meet Thursday, Oct. 28 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. The Seminoles have rattled off three consecutive wins against the Wolf- pack, including last season's thrilling 45-42 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium.

FSU's current three-game win streak is its longest against NC State since winning eight in a row (1968-69, 1992-1997). It began after the Wolfpack won four of the previous six meetings. NC State has more Atlantic Coast Conference victories (five) against the Seminoles than any other league opponent, with its last triumph com- ing in 2006 at Carter-Finley.

Thursday night regulars
Though Florida State has played only one Thursday night ESPN game at home since joining the ACC (Clemson, 2002), weekday games at NC State have become quite common. The Oct. 28 contest marks the fourth consecutive time the Wolfpack have played host to the Seminoles on Thursday night at Carter-Finley Stadium (2004, '06, '08, '10). FSU also traveled to Raleigh for a Thursday night game in 1996. The Seminoles are 3-1 on Thursday's against the Wolfpack.

FSU has mixed Thursday results
The Seminoles, who will be making their 12th Thursday night football appearance against NC State, have had their ups and downs with the weeknight encounters. Florida State holds an all-time record of 7-4 in Thursday games, thanks in part to consecutive victories in 2008 (NC State) and 2009 (North Carolina). It should be noted that nine of the previous 11 meetings have come on the road, with the lone exceptions coming in 1983 (Louisville) and 2002 (Clemson).

Last meeting was a classic
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who suffered cracked ribs early in the game, directed an eight-play, 66- yard, fourth quarter scoring drive as the Seminoles rallied to a 45-42 homecoming victory over NC State. Wide receiver Bert Reed scored on a 3-yard run with 1:36 remaining for the game-winning score. Ponder completed 26 of 40 attempts for 277 yards and a touchdown, overcoming two interceptions along the way. FSU tailback Jermaine Thomas rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns, while Chris Thompson scored twice as the Seminoles amassed 555 yards in total offense. Safety Jamie Robinson collected a game-ending interception of a Russell Wilson pass to secure the victory.

BC victory was significant...
With the 24-19 win over Boston College on Oct. 16, Jimbo Fisher registered his fifth consecutive victory...he joined former FSU coaches Don Veller (‘48) and Larry Jones (‘71) to win at six of his first seven games as a first-year coach...Fisher im- proved his record to 4-0 at Doak Campbell Stadium and the Seminoles moved to 4-0 in ACC play for the first time since 2003... the Seminoles sit alone atop the ACC's Atlantic Division for a fourth second consecutive week...FSU snapped a two-game losing streak against Boston College to take a 5-4 lead in the all-time series...FSU improved its all-time, ACC-leading winning percentage (.818) in league play by moving to 122-27...the Seminoles also notched the programs' 472nd victory, improving its winning percentage to .670 (472-228-17).

First season, first bowl berth
FSU's victory over Boston College se- cured its nation-leading 29th consecutive bowl appearance. The ‘Noles became the first bowl-eligible team from the ACC and Fisher is just the second FSU coach assured of a bowl appearance in his first season, joining Larry Jones (‘71).

‘Noles tops in Florida
Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles (No. 16 AP/No. 15 USA Today/No. 16 BCS) are the top- ranked team in Florida in all three national polls through Oct. 24.

Progress right from the start
Jimbo Fisher's revamped staff has brought immediate results on both sides of the football. The 6-1 Seminoles have made significant statistical improvements in virtually every category, but especially on defense, where coordinator Mark Stoops' unit has made a monumental leap.

QB closing on elite 5k/1k group
As run-pass threats go, Christian Ponder is one of the na- tion's best. With at least six games remaining he can join a group of seven active FBS quarterbacks who have passed for 5,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards.

Ponder efficiently leading the offense
While Christian Ponder's passing yards are down significantly from last season, his efficiency directing the offense remains impressive. Ponder has already thrown 12 TD passes, equaling his seven-game total in 2009. Overlooked is FSU's significant improvement on third down and its efficiency in the red zone. The Seminoles are converting 49 percent of their third down plays (44 of 89), up from last season's 46 percent rate (74-160).

His ability to get the ‘Noles in and out of the correct plays is directly related to their success in the red zone. FSU has produced points on 31 of 34 red zone trips (91 pct.) and scored TD's on 23 of 34 of those drives (68 pct.). Those are significant improvements from 2009, when the ‘Noles scored 82 percent of the time (46 of 56) in the red zone, but converted those trips into touchdowns just 64 percent (36 of 56).

Ponder eclipses ‘09 win total
Senior quarterback Christian Ponder has led the Seminoles to a 6-1 record this season, which gives him more wins as the Seminoles' starting quarterback this sea- son than he had during the 2009 season (four) when an injury against Clemson ended his season in the ninth game. Ponder enters Thursday's game at NC State with a 19-10 record as a starter. Only six other quarterbacks in Florida State history have registered more victories as a starter.

A rare two-fer at Miami
With FSU's 45-17 win at Miami, Christian Ponder became the first FSU starting quarterback to log two career road wins against the Hurricanes since Gary Huff in 1971 (20-17) and 1972 (37-14). Ponder directed a 41-39 victory over the ‘Canes on the road in 2008 for his first triumph. From 1960-1972 all games between the schools were played in Miami.

Florida State Head Coach Quotables

On Tuesday's final practice before the N.C. State game:
We had a good practice. I thought we've practiced well ... we've just got to go play well. Sometimes on an off week, the big thing is you practice too much. I mean, you're ready to play. You're tired of practice.

You've got to remember the game time and get your preparation and get it done.

On QB Christian Ponder's health and the passing game
The passing game's fine. We've got to protect and get guys where they need to be and we'll be all right.

The guy has played one bad half. He's played great. He's leading us in third down (conversions) and led us in red zone (conversions). The guy has bounced back his whole career and he had one bad half. He'll play well and do well.

The arm's fine. He's throwing really well.

On the anticipated atmosphere at Carter-Finley Stadium:
It will be loud. It will be tough. It's a good environment, sitting down in that pit. We played up there a couple years ago and these guys were all there. We've just got to go up there and execute. They'll be ready to play. This is a big game for them; a big game for everybody. It's a conference game and they're building it up.

About FSU's running game which is producing 211 yards an outing:
We have executed well (in practice). We'll do what we do and try to execute it better; get the right looks and get them in and out of the right plays. I think we'll be in good shape.

We've ran well in practice the last two or three days; ran well against our defense, too.

How important it is to execute on third down and in the red zone against N.C. State:
It's crucial – third down, red zone and all those situations – when you get your opportunities you've got to score, because they score. You can't leave anything on the table. We have to be able to run it, throw and do what we have to do to get it in there. That's always huge in every ballgame and it's a big part of what we try and emphasize.

Why the 'Noles have been successful on third down and in the red zone:
It's two things. I think we're more physical and we're running the ball better. [Ponder] is making good decisions down there and getting us in the zone; winning with his legs. He's been scrambling and keeping plays alive. That's why we've played so well on third down. ... We're able to run the football, get manageable third downs, and when we're in the red zone we're not being caught in third-and-10 and [Ponder] has been able to bail us out.

On the how the team has benefited from the long break between games and how healthy they are:
There are a lot of guys that might not have played last Saturday that will definitely play and they feel a lot better right now.

On the challenges that Russell Wilson creates:
You cannot take a play off. Say they have 60 plays. If you play 57 great plays, the three that you didn't could be the difference in what changes the game. That's the thing with him – you've got to be on your toes all the time.

On the combination of Wilson and his veteran receivers:
They've been around. They've had that steady core of guys for a while and they throw it up. They're very systematic, they do a great job of reading (the defense) and know where they're going. They've got a good group. ... Don't forget their tight end. He's a great player, too.

On influence of Tom O'Brien on the Wolfpack:
They're a very well-coached, disciplined team. Tom's always been a great coach. His team plays just like his personality and the way he thinks.

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