April 16, 2011
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Saturday's Florida State spring game was supposed to be all about the two Gs: the garnet and the gold.
It turned out to be all about the two Ds: defense and Dustin.
In front of 53,818 Seminole fans, the FSU football program concluded its 2011 spring practice schedule with the playing of the annual Garnet & Gold game. And while the Garnet earned a 19-17 win, the fans inside Doak Campbell Stadium and the ones watching live on ESPN3.com had the opportunity to see a defensive unit that feasted on a shorthanded offensive line and a golden-footed kicker in Dustin Hopkins that stole the show.
Without the services of offensive line starters Andrew Datko, Zebrie Sanders and David Spurlock as well as key backup Rhonne Sanderson, the defensive fronts for both FSU squads were able to harass the quarterbacks at will.
Starter EJ Manuel, who helmed the Gold, finished the day completing 17 of his 36 pass attempts for 204 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Clint Trickett, who started for the Garnet, was 13-of-22 for 137 yards. Will Secord also played for the Garnet and hit three of his nine attempts for 25 yards.
The Gold generated 253 yards and the Garnet had 168.
"That's about what I suspected," said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, who joked that he was glad both his teams benefitted from having such a great kicker on their team. "We actually scored more than I thought we would. We are just so banged-up up front that it's hard to tell on offense and it's hard to tell on defense. But the kids played hard and got through it pretty much unscathed."
Hopkins got an early start on his Lou Groza Award campaign for the upcoming season by playing for both teams on Saturday and picking up right where he left off after a breakout sophomore campaign. The Houston, Texas native was a cool 5-of-5 on his attempts with makes from 41, 32, 33, 35 and 60 yards.
The 60-yarder would have been good from 70.
"It's definitely good going into the summer to know that I made that kick," Hopkins said about the booming kick he nailed as the first-half clock expired. "It adds a little fuel to the fire so definitely it will be a good memory for me."
In addition to halting the quarterbacks consistently, both defenses bottled up the 'Nole ball carriers.
Early-enrollee Devonta Freeman was the high man on the day among tailbacks with 25 yards on seven carries for the Garnet. Jermaine Thomas added 20 yards for the same team and Ty Jones had 20 for the Gold.
When Manuel and the other signal-callers did have time, youngsters Greg Dent and Christian Green and veterans Bert Reed and Rodney Smith proved to be viable targets. Dent and Reed combined for 11 catches for 140 yards for the Gold and Green and Smith had seven grabs for 100 yards for the Garnet.
Kenny Shaw and walk-on James Dolan posted touchdown receptions.
Not to be outdone, star cornerback Greg Reid excited the crowd with a nifty little 26-yard interception return in the first half. Sophomore linebacker Telvin Smith also had an opening-half interception; his off a ball that Terrance Parks batted into the air.
All-American candidate Brandon Jenkins had two sacks for the Gold from his right defensive end position.
With his second spring as head coach in the books, Fisher said there is one ultimate priority before heading into summer workouts.
"We just have to get everybody healthy now," Fisher said.
The defense struck first Saturday when Smith snared his early interception. The takeaway - and terrific field position because of it - led to a 41-yard Hopkins field goal for the Garnet with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
Hopkins would later add a 32-yard field goal for the Gold to make it a 3-3 ballgame with just over six and half minutes on the second-quarter game clock.
After the Gold got the football back, Manuel found Dent on a 25-yard pass. Two plays later, Dolan caught a 26-yard Manuel toss for the game's first touchdown and first Gold lead of the day at 10-3.
Thanks to Reid, though, it was an advantage that wouldn't last. FSU's defensive sparkplug made a fantastic play by stepping in front of Manuel's pass and taking it 26 yards to pay dirt late in the first half for Garnet.
Hopkins' 60-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter resulted in a 13-10 Garnet lead.
The second half then saw Shaw catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from walk-on Ethan Gilbert for the Gold and two more Hopkins three-point kicks for the Garnet.
"I think it was great," Fisher said about the entire weekend in Tallahassee. "We had a great turnout, had good fan support. A lot old players back. A lot of old players back. Current players, guys that we haven't seen back in years. Just to show the support for them and have them back. They got to have a reunion and get around everybody. I think it is a great atmosphere and it is a pleasure to be around."
SPRING AWARD WINNERS
Minutes before some of the greatest FSU players in history engaged in a now spring-game traditional flag football contest at halftime, several current 'Noles were presented with spring awards in front of the home crowd.
Hinesman (Overall MVP): EJ Manuel
Defensive MVP: Bjoern Werner
Offensive MVP: Lonnie Pryor
Matt Schmauch Academic: Andrew Datko