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April 14, 2012
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel has led the Seminoles to victories in three different bowl games as the signal caller, but the rising senior has never been victorious in the spring game while on campus.
Saturday was no different as Manuel's Gold team fell 35-20 to the Garnet team in the annual spring game.
"I did want to win the spring game so I'm a little (bitter)," he said. "I haven't won one since I've been in college. I win bowl games but can't win spring games."
Manuel completed 28 of 51 pass attempts for 255 yards and two touchdowns, to go with two interceptions.
He started the game and looked to be in complete control as he led his team on a methodical 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped off by a two-yard touchdown pass to James Wilder Jr. to make it 7-7.
After the first scoring drive of the first half, the Gold team failed to reach the endzone again until 1:49 left in the third quarter when Manuel hit Kenny Shaw for a two-yard score. Manuel seemed to be out of sync on the day as a number of his throws sailed high.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher was less concerned with Manuel's accuracy issues, saying the issue had more to do with the an offensive line that featured just two of the starting linemen.
"We didn't protect," Fisher said. "Started calling drop back passes. When you keep calling drop back pass, drop back pass, drop back pass, there ain't no runs, there ain't no movement, - gotta go back to run it, gotta mix it up. Can't just let guys lay their ears back and come. It's a whole different animal."
The Garnet defense did a good job of taking away Manuel's top target for majority of the game as Kelvin Benjamin had four catches for 46 yards as Greg Reid and Lamarcus Joyner bracketed him in coverage.
Garnet safety Terrence Brooks came up with the biggest defensive play of the day as he intercepted Manuel and returned it for a 51 yard touchdown for a 14-7 lead going into halftime.
"I saw Kenny Shaw dragging across the field," Brooks said. "I just jumped out and just took it to the house."
As Manuel struggled to consistently get in a rhythm, Clint Trickett (12-23 for 173 yards and two touchdowns) and Jacob Coker (8-11 137 yards) had solid days and walk-on James Moore chipped in as he was 3-3 for 48 yards and 25-yard touchdown in his lone series of work.
"I was very pleased with his control and his knowledge of what we're doing right now is getting much better," Fisher said of Trickett. "Made some really nice plays, throw on the first play. Very nice catch by Greg Dent, had a little scramble. Clint's getting a much better grasp. And then Jacob, once we got in there. Gotta learn when to go ahead and throw it away, but you can see the touch and the arm strength. He puts the ball in holes and can get in downfield, too. Very pleased with how he played."
Fisher said that he wasn't worried about how Manuel performed in the game, because he knows what to expect from the senior quarterback, who was named most outstanding offensive player of the spring.
"I'm not worried about what I see from EJ. I know what EJ can do," Fisher said. "I want to see what the left tackle can do, I want to see what the left guard can do. I want to see what the receiver can do. I want to see what all those guys can do. I know what I got there. Spring ball is not for that. I want to find out what those guys can do and I come out of there very pleased with that."
Manuel agreed that he wasn't worried with his performance, except for being disappointed in the two interceptions, and that he was pleased overall with how spring went.
"Overall I'm not upset," he said. "It's just one game. I wanted to win, but overall we had a great spring."