By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
Sept. 25, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If defense does in fact win championships, the Florida State football program is looking good for the future.
The Seminoles opened Atlantic Coast Conference play at home Saturday afternoon with a 31-0 thumping of Wake Forest behind a relentless defensive attack. When the dust had settled, the FSU defenders walked off of Bobby Bowden Field as a unit that pitched the first shutout since 2008 and first scoreless conference game since 2003.
FSU (3-1, 1-0 ACC) held the Demon Deacons (2-2, 0-2) to a meager 185 yards of offense -- the second consecutive game in which its opponent produced less than 200 yards -- and forced six punts.
"They never got out-faked," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said about the defense. "They never got disoriented and out of whack. We controlled the line of scrimmage and generated a pass rush without blitzing."
Senior linebacker Kendall Smith was the tackles leader for FSU with seven stops but it was sophomore Brandon Jenkins that produced the most mayhem. The Tallahassee native finished the game with a career-high-tying two sacks, career-best three tackles for loss, and six total tackles.
Jenkins' two quarterback takedowns were part of the six total sacks that the Seminoles generated. Florida State had entered the game as the nation's leader in sacks before adding to that total with the dominating performance.
Offensively, quarterback Christian Ponder eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the first time all season. Ponder tossed two touchdown passes -- both to sophomore wide receiver Willie Haulstead -- with 24 completions and 243 yards. He also added a rushing touchdown.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Taiwan Easterling set a new career-high for receiving yardage with 112. His five receptions also tied a career-best.
On the ground, starting tailback Jermaine Thomas reeled off 88 yards for a season-high of his own. Backups Ty Jones and Chris Thompson combined for 101 yards for an offensive unit that registered 485 total yards.
Haulstead's first-career touchdown catch was what put the Seminoles on the board first on Saturday. He found an open spot in the back of the endzone and Ponder was able to connect with him from 10 yards out with 13:22 left in the second quarter to make it a 7-0 ballgame.
Less than 10 minutes later, a 12-play, 63-yard drive came to fruition when kicker Dustin Hopkins' field goal attempt sailed through the uprights from 34 yards out.
Sophomore defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel then displayed his tremendous athletic ability when he leapt in the air and batted an attempted pass on Wake Forest's next offensive possession. Making the play even better was the fact that the big man snagged it out of the air for his first-career interception.
McDaniel's play marked the first time that an FSU defensive lineman has picked off a pass since Markus White did so last season in the opener against Miami.
Unfortunately for the 'Noles, the play didn't lead to any points as Hopkins' 51-yard field goal attempt fell just short before the first half ended.
McDaniel's play and the overall play of his defensive teammates was what stole the show in those opening two quarters. The Seminoles limited the Demon Deacons to just a combined 74 yards of total offensive in the first and second quarters.
Following a Wake Forest punt early in the third quarter, Mother Nature decided she wanted to have a say-so in the contest. The game was then delayed 42 minutes while lighting was in the immediate area.
Once play resumed, FSU wasted little time in moving down the field for a score. A long run by Thomas and a long grab by Easterling help set the Seminoles up in the redzone and Ponder finished off the nine-play, 63-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown dash to extend the lead to 17-0.
Another Haulstead scoring grab made it 24-0 midway through the fourth quarter and then backup quarterback EJ Manuel found true freshman wide receiver Kenny Shaw on a beautiful 23-yard touchdown pass.
That final scoring play marked Shaw's first-ever touchdown reception.
Florida State's next contest is the first ACC road matchup of the year at Virginia. Game time will be announced on Sunday.
As always, remember that fans can watch the press conferences for both Fisher and Ponder on Seminoles.com starting at 12:15 p.m. on Monday. Fans are also encouraged to attend the Jimbo Fisher Call-In Show on Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. at Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee.