Oct. 6, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Some of the most important players on the Florida State roster this week are walk-ons, whose names are anonymous to many. Their job this week is to prepare the Seminoles - especially the defense - for Georgia Tech's spread option.
It's no small task. A year ago, Yellow Jackets' first-year coach Paul Johnson unleashed his run-based attack on the Atlantic Coast Conference and produced a league-leading 273 yards a game on the ground. That included a 298-yard effort in a 31-28 victory over the Seminoles in Atlanta, where B-back Jonathan Dwyer galloped for 102 of his 130 yards on two plays - touchdown runs of 36 and 66 yards.
"It really gives you problems," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said, following Tuesday's practice. "It's so different from what you're used to seeing. You can simulate it, but you really can't come close. I watched them work on it and it's like slow speed. ... When you go out there and play against it, it just kills you, because the kids forget to adjust to the speed of it."
The importance of understanding the way the Yellow Jackets attack - which the scout team can provide at slower speeds - is important. Following through with defensive execution, however, is even more critical.
Shoring up both areas was the focus of Tuesday's 22-period practice in full pads, primarily against scout teams.
"Everybody has got to take care of his area," Bowden said. "If anybody doesn't, that ball will scoot out of there."
How No. 22 Georgia Tech attacks - and the success it has on the ground - is the biggest difference between two teams that match up nearly identical in most statistical categories. The Yellow Jackets have a slight lead in total offense (405.6-403.4), points per game (30-27), rushing defense (126.6-128.8) and scoring defense (23-24). The Seminoles' are significantly better in the passing game (285.5-153.4).
Similarities aside, the most important statistic for the Seminoles this week will come when the final points are tallied on the scoreboard. FSU is trying to bounce back from consecutive defeats and its first 0-2 start in ACC play with the nation's eyes fixed on Bowden.
"Nothing helps like a win," Bowden said. "And if you win it, you've got to get the next one. Every game, it's there for them. The fact that colleges don't have a playoff, every game is important or you don't make it."
Throughout the week players have been reminded that despite the unprecedented slow start, the goal of getting to the ACC championship game remains in play. Since the advent of the ACC title game in 2005, two eventual champions - Florida State in '05 and Virginia Tech in '08 - finished with 5-3 regular season league marks. Wake Forest won the 2006 game after going 6-2.