Oct. 20, 2011
By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher was only half-joking when he suggested Saturday's showdown at Doak Campbell Stadium (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2) with Maryland might merit a title.
Both the Seminoles (3-3, 1-2 ACC) and Terrapins (2-4, 1-2) have been hit hard by injuries - FSU largely on offense and Maryland on defense.
"We'll call it the `Red Badge of Courage' game between our offense and their defense," Fisher said.
Florida State's injury report is 10-deep with nine players out for the game, including seven on offense. Maryland one-upped the `Noles with 15 players on the weekly report submitted to the ACC, including 11 who will miss the Atlantic Division match-up, including six on defense.
"Luck hasn't been on our side for a while, in that department - injuries," Fisher said.
A week after snapping a three-game losing streak with a 41-16 win at Duke, the Seminoles will once again be without senior offensive lineman Andrew Datko and David Spurlock. On the bright side, the `Noles will send the same starting lineup to the field for the second week in a row after rolling up 481 total yards against the Blue Devils - their highest output in 16 games. That has been a rarity in 2011 as FSU has started four different offensive lines through the first six games.
Junior Garrett Faircloth will start at right guard for the second consecutive week, sandwiched between sophomore guard Bryan Stork and freshman tackle Bobby Hart. Zebrie Sanders will return to the left tackle position with Jacob Fahrenkrug at left guard.
"He's getting better and feeling more comfortable," Fisher said of Faircloth, who made his first career start at Duke. "Like I say, the more you play, the more confidence you have going on the field. If you have success, the more your confidence will grow. Hopefully that will continue this weekend."
While kicker Dustin Hopkins and punter Shawn Powell have performed solidly throughout the season, FSU's special teams have been hampered by penalties, negating some big plays. Conversely, Maryland's special teams have yielded blocked punts and kicks, as well as a pivotal kickoff return for a touchdown in last week's 56-45 loss to Clemson.
Given the momentum that is often generated from special teams play, the Seminoles would like nothing more than to create some scoring opportunities from those units against the Terrapins. In order to do so, it will require a reduction in the penalties that have kept big-play threats Greg Reid and Karlos Williams in check.
"We've had more penalties on special teams than we had all of last year," Fisher said. "It's just frustrating, and some of them didn't need to be there. Four big returns (30 yards or more) have been called back because of penalties.
"It's not from a lack of effort, or lack of effort; it's just a want to."
Nevertheless, they have been costly.
"If you run the ball back to the 50 or 40, then you're back at your 10 or 15 (after penalties), you're talking about a whole different dynamic," Fisher added. "Now you're not only taking away (potential) points for you, but if you don't get a first down or two, the odds of them scoring go up."
Eliminating those penalties, much as they did on offense and defense last week at Duke, could provide a big lift as the Seminoles take the field at home for the first time in 35 days.
Fisher came out of Thursday's practice pleased with the preparation of his club. Now it's a matter of putting it to practice in an effort to get back to the .500 mark in league play.
"I liked the execution," Fisher said. "Hopefully we'll be able to carry it over to Saturday."