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Close, But Not There Yet



Sept. 18, 2011

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Florida State football program may not be back to the consistently-dominant ways of the good old days, but if Saturday night proved anything it's that the Seminoles are indeed headed on a return trip in that direction quickly.

In a 23-13 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 5 FSU proved that it can hang with the country's best college football team on a national stage despite some good, bad and ugly.

The good in this case? FSU's defense.

In a 47-17 loss last year in Norman, Okla., the FSU (2-1) defenders weren't ready for the potent, quick-fire offense of the Sooners (2-0) and ultimately gave up 487 yards of offense on a whopping 83 plays. This time around the outcome was much different, with the 'Noles holding OU to just 310 yards on 66 plays.

Brandon Mellor
Brandon Mellor
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
bmellor@fsu.edu
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Better yet, Oklahoma converted just 4-of-12 third-down conversions this time after gaining first downs at will last year on their home turf. 

OU superstar wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who torched the FSU secondary a season ago, was held Saturday night to a pedestrian-for-his-standards 55 yards on seven grabs. The same was true for Heisman-candidate quarterback Landry Jones, who finished with just 199 yards passing for the Sooners.

In front of a Doak Cambell Stadium record-crowd of 84,392 screaming fans, the Seminoles also had several huge redzone stops. Defensively, Mike Harris and Nigel Bradham had nine tackles apiece. Lamarcus Joyner and Christian Jones added eight more tackles and Bjoern Werner had a sack. 

Joyner and Bradham both had interceptions as well.

"I am disappointed we lost and we had a great opportunity because we had a chance to win that football game," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "But I am also very encouraged that our kids can compete at the highest level. I truly believe that. Now, how do we rebound from this? We don't let one loss become two."

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Other positives in the "good list" included backup quarterback Clint Trickett's play and the emerging star power of wide receiver Rashad Greene.

Trickett  got thrust into the fire late in the third quarter when starter EJ Manuel had to retreat to the locker room with an injured shoulder. Trickett came in to complete seven of his 15 pass attempts for 134 yards. Trickett connected with fellow freshman Greene for a 56-yard touchdown pass with 9:32 left in the ballgame that knotted the score at 13-13.

Greene had a team-high 70 yards and Jarred Haggins added 45 yards receiving on four catches.

The bad in this case? FSU's offensive effort against a ferocious Oklahoma defense wasn't helped by its lack of a running game.

The Seminoles managed just 27 yards rushing on 26 attempts. Without a pile-moving run-game to rely on, the offense became one dimensional and Manuel, who, himself was able to average 6.1 yards per carry, was limited to just 85 yards passing and had two interceptions.

"We've got to find a way to run the football, be more physical up front and control the line of scrimmage," Fisher said. 

FSU also committed six penalties -- one of which negated a touchdown -- for 57 total yards.

"We have got to look at ourselves and correct some of the mistakes that we had and look at some of the missed opportunities that we had," Fisher said. "The plays we had called back. We had some opportunities in the game. Oklahoma made some plays and we didn't make enough."

The ugly in this case? Wide receiver Kenny Shaw's scary moment.

Shaw, who had established himself as Manuel's go-to guy in the early moments of the game and was the recipient on that called-back touchdown reception, was clobbered on what was very nearly a fantastic touchdown reception early in the second quarter. On the play, Shaw caught the ball but was then hit high as he fell across the goal line by two Oklahoma defenders and the ball was jarred incomplete.

Following the vicious hit, Shaw lay motionless on the field before being strapped to a backboard and carted off for x-rays at a local hospital. Luckily, the Orlando, Fla. native returned to the sidelines before the end of the game and was in good spirits and health.

Shaw's injury further hindered a wide receiver corps that was already dangerously depleted without veterans Bert Reed (ankle) and Willie Haulstead (concussion).

"We were really concerned with that hit right there," Fisher said. "Just to let you all know, he's alright. He's walking around doing and we are very happy for that. He played a great football game and we are glad that he's OK."

Oklahoma appeared to pick up right where it left off last season on the opening drive that culminated with Jones' one-yard quarterback keeper.

But just as quickly, the Seminoles answered on their first possession with a 53-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins. The long-distance three-pointer came after the holding call wiped off Shaw's would-be touchdown reception.

The next series saw FSU slow down the Sooners for the first time. The Seminoles parlayed their intense pressure on Jones into an interception by Bradham. It was the first pick that OU's steady quarterback had thrown in 56 attempts this season and was a good sign for an FSU team that didn't force Jones to commit any turnovers in last season's meeting.

The Oklahoma turnover was then followed by a twisting turn of events in the second quarter and third quarters.

Following Shaw's injury on the goal line, the Seminoles wound up not registering any points when Manuel was intercepted by OU's Tom Wort. Oklahoma then turned that takeaway into a 21-yard field goal after a big third-and-goal stop by the Seminoles with 4:32 left in the second quarter.

Florida State's redzone defense then came in handy a few minutes later. Manuel's second interception of the day was returned deep into FSU territory but Oklahoma could only manage another field goal as time expired and took a 13-3 lead into the break.

The third quarter then saw the FSU defense continue its stout play. Highlighted by a Joyner interception, the Seminoles held the Sooners to just 28 yards of offense in the third frame. The 'Noles then added another Hopkins field to make it 13-6 heading into the final quarter of play -- but not before Manuel was removed from the game with his left shoulder injury.

After the Trickett-to-Greene touchdown throw, Jones connected with wide receiver Kenny Stills on what would be the game-winning touchdown pass of 37 yards. OU then intercepted Trickett and tacked on a final field goal.

Next up for the 'Noles is a 3:30 p.m. game at Clemson on Sept. 24 to start ACC play.

"I am very proud of our kids," Fisher said. "I think we have a heck of a football team. I really do. That's one game. Our goals are still all ahead of us. The season starts next week when we go on our conference schedule."

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