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September 13, 2008

Florida State defeats Chattanooga 46-7

Now it gets serious.

The Florida State football team dominated another Southern Conference team Saturday, beating Chattanooga 46-7. But the Seminoles (2-0) have very little time to savor the win. No. 20 Wake Forest, the highest-ranked team in the ACC, arrives in Tallahassee next Saturday.

And even though FSU throttled its first two Football Championship Subdivision opponents by a combined 115-7, coach Bobby Bowden said there are some questions that remain as his team now prepares for the Demon Deacons.

"I'm really concerned about if we're strong enough to play Wake Forest," Bowden said. "I mean, they are a seasoned, big, talented football team."

The Seminoles may not be as seasoned, but they showed a bunch of talent in Saturday's game. FSU scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and the defense held the Mocs to just 29 yards rushing for the entire game.

FSU opened quickly, with quarterback Christian Ponder hitting receiver Corey Surrency on a post route for a 44-yard touchdown. Ponder went back to Surrency later in the first for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Ponder faked a bubble screen to the right and, when both defensive backs on that side bit, he found Surrency sprinting all alone toward the end zone.

Ponder added an eight-yard touchdown pass to Antone Smith in the second quarter and finished the game completing 13 of 22 passes for 180 yards and three first-half touchdowns. It was the first time an FSU quarterback threw three touchdowns in any one half since November 3, 2001, when Chris Rix did it against Clemson.

Ponder said these first two games were immensely helpful in getting comfortable in his new role as FSU's starting quarterback.

"It definitely helped me out and kind of get settled in this offense," he said. "It really helped me build my confidence up a little bit and start to relax."

Ponder wasn't the only quarterback making plays Saturday. D'Vontrey Richardson broke the school record for longest touchdown run by a quarterback with his 55-yard sprint in the third quarter. He also completed nine of 14 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.

The defense had another overpowering performance, holding the Mocs to 164 yards of total offense. The Seminoles sacked Chattanooga quarterbacks four times, including two from Everette Brown and broke up three passes. The one touchdown allowed came in the first quarter, when Jordan Hazard got behind the defense and quarterback Tony Pastore found him for a 62-yard score.

Even as Florida State dominated, Bowden had some concerns about the team's focus, especially on offense. The offensive line was flagged for its first holding penalties of the season. The Seminoles also fumbled four times, though they lost just one.

"We did not execute as good (as last week)," Bowden said. "Now the one thing about that execution was it didn't break down until we started substituting. When we started wholesale substituting, then all of a sudden this guy misses a block and this guy misses a pass, this guy gets a penalty and maybe it wouldn't have happened if your first team would have been in there."

Whether it's the first string or the backups, the entire FSU team must get focused for next week's game against Wake Forest, especially considering what happened the last time the two teams met at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Deacons handed the Seminoles their first home shutout in the Bowden era, 30-0, a loss that kickstarted the wholesale changes to the Florida State coaching staff.

That loss, and last season's loss at Wake, remain fresh in the FSU players' minds, and they say they're ready for revenge.

"We really needed this game to work some things out and bring our 'A' game next week," linebacker Toddrick Verdell said. "We have a sour taste in our mouths because of the past couple of years, so we are definitely excited."


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