Underdogs? Florida State didn’t seem to think so as the Tribe rolled over No. 7 Brigham Young 54-28 Saturday night and trashed the Cougars' 18-game home winning streak in the process.
The Seminoles jumped out to a 30-14 lead at the half while scoring five touchdowns and a field goal on their first six possessions. In all, FSU hardly looked like a team that belonged outside the top 25.
The Noles were cast from the national scene quickly after a heartbreaking loss to in-state rival Miami in the season opener, and were criticized up and down, left and right after hanging on to beat Jacksonville State 19-9 in week two’s rain-soaked slop-fest.
But Saturday night, the Seminoles redeemed themselves.
Though the Cougars took advantage of FSU's well-documented struggles in the secondary on several occasions, the Seminole defense forced five total turnovers and picked off glorified BYU quarterback Max Hall three times.
Unfortunately for Hall, the same voters who launched BYU from No. 20 to No. 7 over a two-week span likely won’t be able to drop the Cougars fast enough on their next ballots.
Meanwhile, Florida State's Christian Ponder continued to look poised, crisp, and in control. Ponder completed 21 of 25 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the winning effort, while adding another 76 yards and another score on the ground.
Most importantly, Ponder led a Seminole offense that dominated time of possession and kept the high-flying Cougar offense on the bench by converting 12 of 15 third-down attempts and rushing for a season-high 311 yards. When it was all said and done, Florida State’s offense was on the field nearly 20 minutes longer than Max Hall’s Cougars and improved to 8-0 under Ponder when the Noles lay a goose egg...in the turnover column.
With the offense controlling the tempo, Seminole fans also got a good look at the stable of running backs head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher has put together in the FSU backfield. Sophomore starter Ty Jones scored once and broke the century mark to lead all runners. Jones ran with patience and showed great vision, bouncing outside and down the sideline in the first half for an explosive 47-yard gain.
Adding to the mix was highly touted true freshman Lonnie Pryor, sophomore Jermaine Thomas and junior Tavares Pressley. Pryor was also impressive in his most extensive role as a Seminole to date, rushing for 50 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries.
So, what does it all mean? Well, for starters, it’s a step in the right direction. The Seminoles had a tremendous opportunity Saturday night, and, to the relief of Florida State fans everywhere, they grabbed it.
Now it’s back to work. The Tribe’s defense still has plenty of room for improvement and it will have to improve if the Seminoles plan on an extended stay in the top 25 this time around.
While young guns like Greg Reid and Dionte Allen continued to impress against BYU, the secondary will continue to be a sore spot—though hopefully a healing wound— throughout the season.
Whether Mickey Andrews and company have it in them to make drastic improvements in the secondary or if the bigger issues coincide with Andrews' schemes remains to be seen.
For now, the Seminoles once again look like the team to beat in the ACC's Atlantic division, and the Tribe should celebrate an important win that will hopefully help the team gain momentum going into the heart of the conference schedule.
First, though, Florida State must take care of a pesky South Florida team next Saturday that thinks it's ready to establish itself among the state's elite. So far this season, the Bulls have had their way with Wofford, Western Kentucky, and Charleston Southern. To say the Seminoles will be their toughest competition to date would be a huge understatement.
The Noles should know better than anyone, however, that taking an underdog for granted is a very bad idea.
Ask Brigham Young, a former top-10 team for whom the BCS will remain but a dream.