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College football

Defense makes stand when it counts most

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - For more than 10 quarters to start the season, Florida State's defense held opponents out of the end zone. That ended a little more than two minutes into the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

That's when P.J. Daniels scored on a 47-yard run down the Florida State sideline to put the Yellow Jackets ahead 13-0. But it was about the only big play the Seminoles defense gave up as it sacked Georgia Tech freshman quarterback Reggie Ball six times, eclipsing the sack total of the first two games, forced two fumbles and came up with one interception.

In some ways, the late-game pressure might have been a welcomed change for a defense that returned 10 starters but went untested in the first two games.

"I liked (playing from behind), but I don't want to do this every week," said linebacker Allen Augustin, who led the team with seven tackles and came up with one sack.

"You know, it gets the adrenaline going. The last couple of games we have been getting the young guys in there."

FSU shut out North Carolina 37-0 and Maryland's only touchdown came on an interception return in a 35-10 win last week. Then came Saturday's 14-13 nail-biter.

After the FSU offense came alive and mounted two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, the defense was left holding a 14-13 lead with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in the game.

The defense responded as Kevin Emanuel forced Ball to fumble on a sack. The ball was recovered by defensive end Eric Moore.

After FSU turned the ball over on downs with 2:10 left, Pat Watkins picked off a Ball pass on fourth down and 7 as the Yellow Jackets neared midfield.

In the second half, Florida State allowed Georgia Tech 69 yards and three first downs.

Throughout the game, the Seminoles were able to corral Ball, who orchestrated Georgia Tech's 17-3 win over Auburn last week. He completed 11 of 24 passes for 116 yards, but his 26 yards rushing were offset by losses of 43 yards on the six sacks.

"Basically we like to have the game on our shoulders so we can go out there and make plays," said Moore, the only new addition among defensive starters. In addition to his fumble recovery, Moore forced Georgia Tech's other fumble and had 11/2 sacks.

Augustin said it was a game FSU would have let slip away a year ago.

"It was definitely the type of game we wouldn't have been able to pull off last year," he said.

"It was real close to how we played up in Kentucky against Louisville (last season). The main difference is we came together as a team and we stuck it out."

Florida State improved to 12-0 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC in 1992.


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