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April 4, 2009

Spring Game Wrap: Defense gets the upper hand

Jamie Robinson picks off two passes and the defense recovered five fumbles.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The talk all spring has been about the offense's success against a young and banged up Seminole defense. All that talk seemed to have gotten the attention of Mickey Andrew's group. Thanks to five fumble recoveries, two Jamie Robinson interceptions and a Nigel Bradham touchdown, the Gold squad downed the Garnet team 39-27 in the annual Garnet & Gold game Saturday in Doak Campbell Stadium.

"That was an interesting thing tonight," said head coach Bobby Bowden. "Right off the bat you had two bad snaps, that's not supposed to happen. We had eight fumbles. (Carlton Jones) had five that I counted. Eight fumbles you won't beat anybody.

"Jamie Robinson I thought had a good game back there in secondary. Got an interception, he had two then. I guess the biggest surprise was our secondary. They've been getting ripped pretty good this spring. They were most active tonight I've seen them, that is a good sign. I thought the defense won the battle."

Both of Robinson's interceptions were highlight reel material and he was the star in the secondary but it was Bradham's 45-yard return of a Christian Ponder fumble that turned out to be the biggest play of the night. The five fumbles lost by the offense were a surprise considering that had not been an issue for most of the spring leading up to Saturday.

"It feels good to make a play like that every now and then," said Bradham. "When you do your thing to motivate the team it gives them intensity and encourages them to go out and make plays as well. It felt real good."

"Why were all those dadgum fumbles," said Bowden. "Now of course defense knocked some of those out of there, defense knocked. But I saw some of the kids doing things that they haven't done all spring, which I would think probably a crowd in their pressing, that's what you don't want, but that's why it's good to have that game."

After posting eye-popping yards per play numbers in the previous scrimmages, the defense did an excellent job of limiting the offense on Saturday holding the Garnet team to just five yards per play. Ponder was 10-of-19 for 118 yards, most of which came on a 65-yard strike to Jarmon Fortson early in the scrimmage.

"(Ponder) struggled, not I think some of it was our receivers had a hard time getting open," said Bowden. "They got more pressure on him tonight I think they have all spring. I didn't feel like he was sharp. He was sharp on some passes but I saw other times when a man was open big and he missed him. We had dropped passes at inopportune times. If you're gonna find out those things out, it's good to find them out against yourselves."

"I just need to go back and re-focus, I think I didn't do enough and obviously I think I let some stuff affect me...this is the first game-type environment in a while and so I wasn't ready," said Ponder. "I wasn't ready and these next three days I gotta overcome it and watch the film and learn from those things."

There was only one other offensive touchdown on the evening and that came on a 31-yard strike from Corey Eddinger to Cameron Wade. He and Fortson combined for 106 of the Gold team's 236 total receiving yards. Fortson led the way with four catches for 75 yards while Rod Owens, Bert Reed and Richard Goodman were the only other players with more than one reception.

"I think the one's came out and started off alright, I had a couple good drives and a touchdown," said Ponder. "I mean just the turnovers killed us, and then I think we started letting stuff pile on top of us, and towards the end we got in and over our heads and let stuff affect us a little bit. We got three days to fix it for us this spring, and we'll have to overcome it come August."

The turnovers started early for the offense. On just the third pass of the day Robinson snatched his first interception on a 3rd-and-13 pass intended for Louis Givens. On the next play Ponder went deep to Fortson but on six of the next 27 offensive snaps there was a fumble with the defense falling on five.

"Some of them were on our own, and some of them we just fell on, but they still count," said defensive coordinator Mickey Andres. "I felt like we had a much better effort. We challenged them to play their best when playing in this stadium. Some of them took it to heart. Got a few breaks, but we also made more than we have all spring too. I think there were a couple great interceptions and several fumbles. You got a good chance of winning if you can do that."

"Coach Andrews makes it our goal to make turnovers, and we have been kind of lacking on that throughout this whole spring," said Robinson. "It got brought up in a report that the DB's have had only had one pick this spring, so we just tried to go out there and really focus on causing turnovers a little more and get the defense going."

The other area where Andrews saw a huge improvement was with his run defense. Despite missing Kendrick Stewart, Budd Thacker and Dekoda Watson, the Seminole offense averaged just two yards per rush gaining 59 yards on 29 carries.

"I feel like we played pretty good," said Bradham. "Today was a good day for us. We made a couple stops. We gave up a couple plays, but came right back around and made big plays ourselves. I feel like we were pretty motivated and kind of dominated tonight."

"I think so, I think yeah, I mean they pretty much dominated all night, so it was definitely, I think, their best performance this spring, and I mean they look pretty good," said Ponder of his teammates on the defensive side.

Unlike springs in the past, Saturday night's Garnet & Gold game does not signal the end of practice. The Seminoles are scheduled to practice three more days next week and Seminoles.com will continue to keep you updated on all things FSU.



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