Florida State Seminoles: savannah state

Muffed punts a big concern for FSU

September, 12, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Tyler Hunter waved his arm to signal for a fair catch, the ball was already on top of him.

As Savannah State tacklers closed in, the ball bounced off his right shoulder and bounded away, about 7 yards behind him.

In the end it meant nothing. Hunter backtracked, retrieved the muffed punt, and tumbled to the ground. EJ Manuel began the ensuing drive backed up a bit farther than he might otherwise have been, but Florida State still celebrated its fifth touchdown of the day 5:22 later.

For Jimbo Fisher, however, it meant everything.

"Any time you put a ball on the ground, that is a concern," Fisher said.

What's more concerning is that Hunter's muff isn't the first of the season for FSU, which is adjusting to a new group of punt returners filling the void left when Greg Reid was dismissed from the program last month.

In Week 1 against Murray State, Rashad Greene returned his first punt of the season for a touchdown, but he followed that up with several miscues, including a fumble in the third quarter.

A year ago, Florida State lost to Wake Forest in large part due to five turnovers. That's made fielding each punt cleanly a major emphasis this week.

"Things are going to get a lot more intense," Greene said. "It's a big responsibility, and in practice we have to take it more serious and be focus. It's just making smart decisions."

Greene showed marked improvement in his second game of the season, picking up 64 yards on two returns before giving way to Hunter, but Fisher said better blocking and a more straightforward approach by Savannah State were the big differences.

"It was easier because there was no rugby kicks, and I think we protected better at the line of scrimmage," Fisher said. "But I was pleased with (Greene), and I was pleased with our blocking."

Overall, Florida State is averaging 18.7 yards per punt return so far this season, good for third in the ACC and 15th nationally. A year ago, Reid's punt-return unit ranked 34th overall, but was sixth in return yards per game.

While the return yardage was nice, however, the top priority for Fisher remains fielding the kick cleanly.

"You always have to make sure you're catching the football," Fisher said. "That's the No. 1 goal, take care of that ball. It's always a concern, and we'll continue to work on it hard."

Grading the Game: FSU 55, SSU 0

September, 9, 2012
What can you take from a 55-0 game against a bad FCS team that was played with a running clock for 11 minutes then abruptly called for weather reasons with nine minutes to play in the third quarter?

The answer: Not very much. But Jimbo Fisher will watch film on it anyway, so we're pushing forward with this week's grades.


Florida State scored 124 points in its first two games, so it's tough to offer much in the way of insightful criticisms of EJ Manuel's play, but we did note a few loose ends after the Murray State game that offered some minor cause for concern. It took just two plays for Manuel to provide a rebuttal Saturday.

Manuel connected with Rodney Smith for a 61-yard TD pass on the second play of the game, and it was all easy from there. His final numbers -- 11-of-13 for 161 yards and three TDs -- illustrate both how small an obstacle Savannah State was and how sharp Manuel looked in dismantling the Tigers. The only two incompletions of the day for Manuel were a drop by Rashad Greene and a ball he threw away while avoiding pressure.

What was most encouraging, Fisher said, was the fact that Manuel was in complete control of the game, looking off his first and second reads and finding an open man on all but one play.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State's blowout of Savannah State proceeded as expected through the bulk of the first half before lightning provided the Tigers with a merciful early conclusion.

The Seminoles scored on eight of nine possessions in the game, including their first seven, en route to a 55-0 win against overmatched Savannah State. EJ Manuel threw three touchdown passes and freshman Kelvin Benjamin hauled in two scores, and the Tigers mustered just 28 yards of offense.

The game was delayed twice by lightning, the first resulting in a decision to use a running clock the remainder of the game, and the second calling the proceedings to an end completely.

In its first two games of the season, Savannah State was outscored 139-0, having lost its opener to Oklahoma State 84-0.

Florida State, meanwhile, opens ACC play next week against Wake Forest, having taken its first two games by a combined score of 124-3.

It was over when: There was still 8:59 left in the third quarter. Really, it was over before it started, as Florida State had no trouble carving apart the Savannah State defense. But the real intrigue came when the players left the field for the second time due to a weather delay at about 8:52 p.m., and about 40 minutes later the game was officially called.

Game ball goes to: Manuel. He didn't get much playing time, but he certainly made the most of what little action he got. Manuel completed 11 of 13 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns -- just the second game of his career with three or more TD throws.

Stat of the game: 385. That was the total yardage difference between the two teams, despite the game ending 23 minutes early. Florida State racked up a whopping 413 yards of total offense before the weather forced an early finish, while Savannah State mustered a mere 28 yards in the game, including just nine via passing plays, as QB Antonio Bostick finished 2-of-15.

Unsung hero: Chris Thompson. The senior running back didn't see a ton of action, like all of FSU's starters, but he did pick up 44 yards on just four touches, including a 6-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. It was Thompson's first touchdown since Sept. 10, 2011 against Charleston Southern. The senior broke his back three weeks later and missed the remainder of the 2011 season.

What we learned: Not a whole lot. Florida State's starters barely played. The second-stringers took only a few snaps in the second half. The third-stringers barely had a chance to get loose before the weather brought things to a halt. But if there's anything for coach Jimbo Fisher to take from this game, it's that his team lived up to expectations, looking incredibly sharp early rather than overlooking an obviously inferior opponent.
There was little doubt this would be a blowout, but the onslaught started early, and the bulk of Florida State's starters were off the field by the end of the first quarter.

The Seminoles breezed through the Savannah State defense, racking up 376 yards of total offense and scoring on their first seven drives while building a 48-0 halftime lead. The only thing that slowed Florida State's dominance was the weather, as lightning suspended play for nearly an hour late in the second quarter. Play resumed with an announcement that the rest of the game would be played with a running clock.

Stat of the half: It's hardly worth noting all the huge offensive numbers, as Savannah State hardly put up a fight against the Seminoles' first-stringers, who all had early seats on the bench. The most noteworthy number of the half was probably the one negative moment for Florida State, when senior kicker Dustin Hopkins had his streak of 145 consecutive successful PATs snapped with a miss following FSU's seventh touchdown of the game.

Player of the half: EJ Manuel only played the first quarter, but he made the most of his time. Manuel completed 11-of-13 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns before exiting in favor of Clint Trickett. It marked just the second time in Manuel's career he'd thrown for at least three touchdowns in a game.

What's working for FSU: Everything. Florida State's first four touchdowns required just 12 total plays, and the offense moved the ball at will. Defensively, the starters were virtually all on the sideline by the start of the second quarter, after holding Savannah State to minus-20 yards in the first.

What's not working for FSU: The weather. The stands were already only half full with rain throughout the day and a mismatch on the field dampening much in the way of fan enthusiasm. The combination of the lopsided score and the lightning delay in the second quarter emptied a majority of the fans.

Noteworthy: Freshman Kelvin Benjamin scored his first career touchdown, a 9-yard fade pass from Manuel in the first quarter. … Senior running back Chris Thompson scored his first touchdown in nearly a year in the first quarter. Thompson broke his back last October and missed the remainder of the season. … Junior receiver Willie Haulstead had his first reception since the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. ... Tight end Nick O'Leary (thigh) and center Bryan Stork (neck) did not play in the first half. Austin Barron started at center and freshman Christo Kourtzidis and Penn State transfer Kevin Haplea both started at tight end. Kourtzidis made his first career catch in the second quarter. ... Defensive tackle Anthony McCloud got his first playing time of the season after missing the opener with a chest injury.

Playing time at a premium for Manuel

September, 7, 2012
EJ Manuel threw 22 passes in Week 1, nearly all of them on target, but just one going for a touchdown.

By the middle of the third quarter, Manuel, along with nearly all of Florida State's other starters, was resting comfortably on the sideline as Clint Trickett and the second-stringers enjoyed mop-up duty against Murray State.

It was an abridged debut, but it was also a good bit more work that Oklahoma State's starters got in an 84-0 blowout of Savannah State.

With Wake Forest and the start of ACC play looming in another week, Jimbo Fisher is left with something of a quandary.

On one hand, Fisher understands the ugliness that occurred in Stillwater, Okla. last week, and he knows his team is equally capable of embarrassing Savannah State on Saturday. He has no interest in showing up another coach, disheartening other players or, worse yet, risking injury to his key performers in a game should be an easy win.

On the other hand, Manuel needs work, and the only way for him to get it might involve running up the score.

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NoleNation roundtable: Savannah State 

September, 7, 2012
As Florida State prepares to take on Savannah State, NoleNation takes a look at some relevant questions heading into Saturday.

Q: How much should the starters play this week, particularly in the wake of Brandon Jenkins injury?

Hale: This is a little bit of a balancing act for Jimbo Fisher. On the one hand, he doesn't want to get his players hurt, and he doesn't want to embarrass an opponent. On the other hand, he needs to see enough game action from his starters that they can be prepared for Wake Forest the following week (and Clemson after that).

Five storylines: Florida State 

September, 6, 2012
It's a second straight week against an overmatched opponent for Florida State, which takes on a Savannah State team coming off one of the ugliest losses in recent college football history, an 84-0 smack-down at the hands of Oklahoma State.

Like with the opener against Murray State, there's little upside for FSU in this week's game beyond the easy win and a chance to pad some stats, but there will nevertheless be a handful of intriguing questions for the Seminoles as kickoff approaches.

1. How much will the starters play?

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Q&A: Savannah State's Steve Davenport

September, 5, 2012
There are plenty of football coaches around the country who woke up Sunday morning with memories of an ugly Week 1 performance still lingering, but no one had it worse than Savannah State head coach Steve Davenport.

His team fell to Oklahoma State by the score of 84-0, and it was only that close because the Cowboys pulled their starters in the second quarter.

It was ugly, and Davenport knows his program, which has won just 12 games in the last five years, was in no position to handle the defending Big 12 champions.

But Davenport's Sunday didn't end with watching the game tape of his team's epic beating. After that was finished, he got a chance to flip on the game tape of Florida State, his Week 2 opponent.

No coach in the country will have a tougher job of rallying his troops this week, and we caught up with Davenport to see how he plans to do it, what he expects from his team against FSU, and what he saw in the Seminoles' 69-3 win over Murray State in Week 1.

NoleNation: Well, first off, how's your team -- physically and mentally -- after Saturday's game?

Davenport: Health-wise, we're decent. We have one kid who suffered a concussion who has been ruled out (CB Javon Moore). Those things that happened, that's part of the game, part of football. … That was the only big injury, and other than that we're as healthy as we can be.

Mentally, we'll find out. Sometimes, your fortitude is tested, and ours was certainly tested in Stillwater, and as you well know, we have just as tough a venue coming in Tallahassee. It'll be interesting. You find out a lot about kids. You find out a lot about yourself when you go through tough times. That was certainly a tough time we've got to get over, and I don't expect Florida State to feel sorry or any empathy for us. They're going to go out and try to win a football game, just as we are.

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