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Sunday, October 7, 2012
Thompson's carries up, Wilder overlooked

By David M. Hale

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The hope, Jimbo Fisher said, was to deliver a final punishing blow. His running game had sputtered in the second half, but on what he believed would be the finishing touches on a much-too-close win, he believed Chris Thompson would find his footing.

Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson played well this season leading up to Saturday, but he couldn't find any holes in the second half during FSU's loss.
The drive started with 2:47 to play. Three plays followed, all runs. The three rushes gained a total of 1 yard and wiped a mere 20 seconds off the clock.

"I felt, even though we didn't run it, we'd been pounding the ball at different times in the game," Fisher said. "I thought we could get some nice runs in there."

But afterward, the question had to be asked: Hadn't Thompson taken enough pounding?

The 187-pound senior had a career-high 25 carries Saturday, but after a monster first half, he managed just 27 yards in the second half.

Meanwhile, hulking back-up James Wilder Jr. remained absent for a second straight game, getting just one carry, which came on the first drive of the third quarter. Wilder has just six carries for eight yards in his last two games. Last year's leading rusher Devonta Freeman hasn't taken a single handoff.

"It [got] lost in the rhythm of the game," Fisher said. "I realize now that it's over with. We talked about trying to get [Wilder] in. We need to do that. Chris got so hot, and you want to keep giving him the ball, and we did, that's for sure."

Throughout the first four games of the season, Wilder had become a fixture in the second half. After Thompson did his damage early, Wilder came on for a final, punishing blow.

So far this season, 76 percent of Thompson's rushing yards have come in the first halves of games, when he's averaged 10.5 yards per carry. That number dips to 4.1 yards per carry in the second half.

Meanwhile, 79 percent of Wilder's yards have come in the second halves of games, when he's averaged better than 7 yards per touch. In the first half, he musters just 4 yards per carry.

Saturday was a particularly tough workload for Thompson, who had 14 carries in the first half as little else worked well for Florida State's offense. That was five more first-half carries than Thompson had endured in any other game this season, but the plan never changed for the second half.

"We can't let that happen," Fisher said. "He'll get beat up. He's not the body size to do all that."

Moreover, Thompson suffered an elbow injury midway through the first half, banging his right elbow on a helmet and being forced to the locker room for a time. He came back with it wrapped, but it wasn't healed.

"It was real painful," Thompson said. "I took some medicine, got it wrapped up, but I guess I'll find out later on what's really going on."

For his part, Thompson said neither the workload nor the injury was not a factor. The holes simply disappeared, and his cuts simply weren't as sharp.

But even Thompson understands the value of diversity in the backfield, and a fresh set of legs might have made an impact.

"[The workload] didn't wear me down," Thompson said. "But it's always good for other guys to come in and be fresh."