Freshmen shine on FSU's dominant defense

November, 9, 2013
11/09/13
5:41
PM ET


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- There’s family history here, Mario Edwards Jr. said. In fact, his father had reminded him just hours before Florida State kicked off against Wake Forest on Saturday.

It was 1998 when Mario Edwards Sr., currently a member of FSU’s support staff, picked off four passes against Wake Forest, tying an ACC record.

“He said we were walking into his house,” the younger Edwards said of his father's pregame speech.

On Saturday, 15 years after his father’s record-setting performance, Edwards added to the legacy.

[+] EnlargeJalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews
AP Photo/Nell RedmondJalen Ramsey, left, and Nate Andrews, both freshmen, returned Wake Forest turnovers for scores Saturday.
Edwards was one of five Florida State players with an interception Saturday, a game in which the Seminoles tallied seven takeaways and two defensive touchdowns in a 59-3 rout of Wake Forest.

Demon Deacons starting quarterback Tanner Price threw just four passes before being pulled. Three were intercepted. His backup, Tyler Cameron, didn’t fare much better. In all, Florida State’s defense and special teams accounted for 224 yards and 21 points, dwarfing Wake’s offensive output for the game.

The dominant defensive performance was a tribute to Florida State’s depth. With senior safety Terrence Brooks out with a concussion and junior Tyler Hunter done for the year with a neck injury, the Seminoles started two true freshmen as the defensive backstops Saturday. Jalen Ramsey has been starting the entire season and was joined Saturday by Nate Andrews. The pair accounted for two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two touchdowns. By the time the starters were all on the bench in the fourth quarter, Wake had just 16 yards through the air.

“Two true freshman safeties and both scored touchdowns,” Jimbo Fisher said. “I mean, they can play the ball, they can tackle, they can run, they can play multiple potions. They’re very good football players.”

Edwards, Terrance Smith and Christian Jones had picks too, while another true freshman, Marquez White, added the game’s final takeaway. Thirty-eight of Florida State’s 59 points followed Wake Forest turnovers.

But if the defense dominated, the offense never quite found its rhythm. Chalk that up to another blowout. Jameis Winston threw for just 159 yards, and for a 15-minute span midway through the first half, he threw just one pass. For the third time this season, Winston’s final pass of the game was an interception, and for the second time in three weeks, he saw just one drive’s worth of action in the third quarter.

None of that mattered much, Winston said. The defense set the tone, and Florida State rolled to another easy win. It’s become habit, and that’s the idea -- particularly with the Seminoles now comfortably in command of their destiny in the BCS title picture.

“The way we’re playing right now, we’re playing like a championship team,” Winston said.

Indeed, it was a championship moment for Florida State on Saturday, though few realized it.

When the game was over, the Seminoles filtered into their locker room and found a trophy waiting. With Saturday’s win, FSU clinched the ACC’s Atlantic Division title and a trip to the conference championship game.

“We saw the trophy, and we were like, ‘OK, this is nice,’” Jones said.

The accomplishment, however, had been a complete afterthought. Florida State’s goals are set so much higher.

After Saturday’s big win, coupled with Oregon’s loss Thursday, those goals are well within reach. Now, Edwards said, it’s simply a matter of following Fisher’s one-day-at-a-time mantra and continuing the dominance.

“Everything is falling into place now,” Edwards said, “just like Jimbo said it would.”

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