The senior wide receiver's development has been a key to the Seminoles offense.
TALLAHASSEE - Florida State senior receiver Chauncey Stovall didn't run away from the heartache of the loss at Maryland or let go of a sense of responsibility.
"I got mad at myself because I think I was being a little bit selfish," he said. "We had fresh guys on the sideline who weren't hurt and I was out there trying to play."
Although he did have one touchdown, Stovall, hampered by a strained right hamstring, simply couldn't beat the Terrapins' daring man-to-man coverage as easily or as often as he might have otherwise.
"Some of the deep balls, if I were healthy, if it were a healthy Chauncey Stovall out there, they would have been caught," he said, not remorsefully but defiantly. "I said to myself, "If I want to play, I've got to get myself better.' "
Thanks to twice daily rehab sessions, Stovall returned last weekend against Duke with eight catches for a career-high 138 yards, including a 48-yard reception from Wyatt Sexton that set up a fourth-quarter touchdown to seal a 29-7 win.
"I thought he was a pretty good example of a leader," coach Bobby Bowden said. "He's a senior and I thought he went out there and not only talked, but he walked the walk. He made plays."
Not like that's something new for Stovall.
Entering tonight's showdown at North Carolina State, a must-win game if the Seminoles are to remain in the race for the ACC title, Stovall has emerged as the top gun with 38 receptions for 557 yards and five touchdowns, all team highs. He's also second in the ACC in receiving yards per game and third in catches per game.
"He's just doing what he was made to do," Sexton said. "I kind of feel like you guys should have noticed that Chauncey Stovall was a stud (before now). He's definitely a big-time talent."
Forgive us, Wyatt.
But in our defense, Stovall, 23, didn't take the quickest route to a lead role in the Seminoles' production. The former Vero Beach High standout went to Hinds (Miss.) Community College and, even after enrolling at FSU in 2002, sat out a season. That afforded him the opportunity to absorb the offense and, perhaps more important, to realize that he had a ways to go to excel at an elite Division I-A level.
"Coming from junior college, I don't think I was mature enough," Stovall said. "Junior college is just like another level of high school. It was very easy to me."
"He had to learn how to work at practice," receivers coach and offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said.
Stovall did that and finally showed his big-play ability in the fourth quarter at Clemson with a 71-yard touchdown in a humbling loss late last season. He then led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards in the Orange Bowl rematch against Miami.
Could he do even more this season?
For Stovall, the work began in the spring with former Seminole star Anquan Boldin.
Boldin is tall and powerful and uses those assests, not so much speed, to separate from cornerbacks who try to jam him at the line. The 6-foot-2 Stovall never relied on size and strength before. He never had to.
"We worked out the week of spring break, and he showed me a couple of things," Stovall said. He also turned to defensive linemen Travis Johnson and Eric Moore, who excel at using their hands to ward off blockers.
"If somebody can get his hands on you, then the ballgame's over," Johnson said. "They're going to have that leverage. Chauncey came to me, he and Cro (Craphonso Thorpe), said, "We want to learn to use our hands.' We worked on stuff like that."
Stovall also attacked the weights to tone up. At the beginning of the summer, he weighed 230.
"We always used to kid Chauncey about being the fat receiver," Johnson said. "He's slimmed down some."
He's now 216 and stronger; he increased his bench press from 280 pounds to 325.
"He has a body that cannot get knocked around, if he'll use it," Jeff Bowden said. "He's learning how to use it. ... He's come a long way."
Now, it's a brave - or foolhardy - defensive back who tries to press a healthy Stovall. Just ask Virginia cornerback Marcus Hamilton. With the Seminoles leading 12-0 midway through the second quarter and facing a third and 2 from their own 24, Stovall used his body like he rarely had before this season.
"The ball was coming a little short, so what I did was I slowed up and put my body into his," Stovall said. "When he turned his head to look for the ball, that's when I jumped over him." An easy touchdown in a convincing 36-3 win last month.
"A year ago," he said, "I probably wouldn't have made that catch or got past him to make that catch. ... (But) there's a lot more that I can do."