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Defense closes holes in 2nd

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

TALLAHASSEE -- During Florida State's championship years it was the defense that intimidated opponents while the offense got the glamor. But, in the past two seasons, the defense, subpar by FSU standards, has taken the heat for its inability to close a game.

Thursday night against Clemson, however, FSU's defense finally showed a closer's mentality. After giving up 24 points and 341 yards in the first half, the Seminoles shut the door in the second and sent a message to the rest of the country.

"(I remember) back in high school watching Derrick Brooks and Marvin Jones and seeing all those garnet jerseys fly to the ball, saying that's what I want to do," linebacker Kendyll Pope said. "We don't have the respect that those guys had. Everybody is testing us, thinking they can beat us. We've got to gain that swagger back and get people to fear the spear again."

If the second half is any indication, the defense might be getting back to that point. It came out the locker room with a different attitude that made all the difference.

"The first half was just a bunch of blown opportunities," defensive back Stanford Samuels said. "The difference between the first and second (halves) had more to do with our heart and our head than adjustments on the field."

A defense that had yielded three touchdowns and a field goal on nine first-half Clemson possessions closed the holes in the second, forcing three punts, three turnovers and yielded just a touchdown and 100 yards for the next 30 minutes.

Clemson roared out of the locker room and immediately put FSU on its heels with a combination of long passes that took the game straight to the defense and its main goal coming into the game.

"If we don't straighten out those long passes, then it's over," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "Playing Miami and Notre Dame, we need to get things together."

While it wasn't Miami's much ballyhooed group, Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons and a trio of Tiger receivers, J.J. Mckelvey and Airese Currie and tight end Ben Hall were enough, totaling 262 yards through the air in the first half, sending FSU back to the drawing board during halftime.

"(Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews) split us up into groups with our position coaches and it was just a matter of little adjustments," defensive end Alonzo Jackson said.

It was the type of defensive demonstration that FSU had to have with just 10 days between Clemson and defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Miami.

"We need to be on a roll, going into play the No. 1 team in the nation," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "We had to have a good showing going into Miami because if we don't, they are going to embarrass us."

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