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Wake-up call timely for defense

Florida State starts badly, giving up 14 quick points, then shows the form it did against Miami and Clemson.

By JASON SCHNEIDER
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Against Miami, Florida State needed one final defensive stop to topple the defending national champs.

But the defense couldn't hold and Miami won by a point.

On Saturday, leading by six with little more than three minutes left, the Seminoles were in the same position.

But this time the defense forced a three-and-out and effectively crushed any hope of a Wake Forest upset.

"That was the first time that the defense stepped up and decided that we were going to win the game ourselves and that we were not going to put all the pressure on the offense," defensive end Alonzo Jackson said.

The series was an exclamation point on a day that did not start out well for the Seminole defense.

Wake Forest had 155 yards and 14 points after two possessions and had veteran defensive players shaking their heads in confusion.

"That was the lowest of the low," Jackson said. "It was crisis time. Losing this game was not an option. We come out there and before we look up we are down 14 points and we haven't even slowed them down. They didn't get less than 5 yards on each of those plays."

It was a show that could not be sustained.

Wake Forest's offensive flood slowed to trickle as FSU caught on to Wake's befuddling multiple option offense.

"It's like a baseball hitter and a pitcher," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "Playing against the scout team (in practice) is trying to hit curveballs and then when you get out here it's like trying to hit fastballs."

FSU finally got into a groove after the first quarter -- Wake Forest gained 94 yards in the second quarter and 75 in the third.

On its first three drives, Wake Forest amassed two touchdowns, 205 yards, 28 plays and 13 first downs. In addition to the two scores, Wake also missed a field goal. After the third Wake drive, FSU defensive coaches pulled their players aside, made adjustments to their sets and encouraged everyone to play together.

"The big thing was is that they hung together and didn't scatter after those first couple series when we got behind by 14," defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "(Linebackers coach) Joe Kines made some suggestions that helped us, we built on that at the half, we changed a couple of the defenses and our kids went out there and played football."

The Seminoles had intermittently shut down teams, slowing Miami's pro-set offense and Clemson's wide-open attack. But Saturday night was different.

"It wasn't in the (defensive calls), it was in a group of young'uns going out and fighting their hearts out." Andrews said. "That's the kind of determination we need to play with. We've seen spots of it during the year, but we didn't have the type of consistency we had (Saturday)."

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