Thomas Shines While Ponder Dims: Florida State Handles Virginia, 34-14

Daniel BrommerCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2010

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 11:  Quarterback Christian Ponder #7 of the Florida State Seminoles drops back to pass against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Norman, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Florida State Seminoles visited the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday and for the first half of the game, they actually looked like a powerhouse again. In the first half, they held Virginia scoreless and to a total of 42 yards while the offense racked up 295 yards and 27 points.

The second half told a different story.

The defense stopped blitzing while the secondary almost regressed and looked like their old selves from a year ago—a vision of something that needs to change before Miami comes to town next week.

The offense was ignited by running back Jermaine Thomas who had 88 yards on his first three carries with a long touchdown run of 70 yards. He finished the game with 16 carries for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards a carry. Backup running back Chris Thompson had 10 rushes for 76 yards and a touchdown giving the 'Noles a dynamic duo and a potent rushing attack.

Senior quarterback Christian Ponder continued his lackluster season, throwing for 172 yards and a touchdown, connecting on 17 of 29 passes and averaging just 5.9 yards per completion. That's nearly two yards less than what Thomas and Thompson both averaged on the ground. Eyebrows are starting to raise around Seminole nation as Ponder just hasn't looked the part he did last season. While the offense is putting up big numbers, Ponder isn't contributing much like he should be. He does, however, appear to have found a reliable target in sophomore receiver Willie Haulstead, who had five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

While the offense put up big numbers, the defense once again shined in the victory. Sophomore cornerback Greg Reid accounted for two interceptions and the defense racked up yet another six sacks bringing their season total to 25 sacks, just two shy of last year's entire sack total of 27. Xavier Rhodes, Christian Jones, Nigel Bradham, Demonte McAllister, Markus White, and Dan Hicks all registered a sack in Saturday's win and middle linebacker Kendall Smith led all Seminole defenders with six tackles.

The Virginia offense sputtered in the first half, but managed to show signs of life in the second. Quarterback Marc Verica had 211 yards passing with a touchdown and two interceptions. His main target, Kris Burd, hauled in four catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Cavalier rushing attack was completely shut down with running backs Perry Jones and Keith Payne combining for 17 carries for 50 yards and no touchdowns.

The win marks the second win in conference play for the Seminoles and brings their season record to 4-1. Next week brings their toughest opponent since Oklahoma when they travel to Miami for their annual showdown with the Hurricanes—a matchup that has been widely speculated as the preview for this season's ACC Championship.