tampabay.com

Thin secondary stands strong

By D.C. REEVES
Published October 30, 2005


TALLAHASSEE - Three was hardly a crowd in the Florida State secondary Saturday.

Battling injuries and a lack of depth, Gerard Ross, J.R. Bryant and Michael Ray Garvin were the last cornerbacks standing in the second half against Maryland. They stood tall, helping the defense hold the Terrapins to six points in the final half on their way to a 35-27 come-from-behind win.

A season-ending knee injury to Antonio Cromartie in August and a pinched nerve in Trevor Ford's neck meant FSU was down to its final four corners before Tony Carter - Cromartie's replacement - left Saturday's game late in the second quarter with a dislocated shoulder.

"We get one corner hurt, Ford, he didn't dress out for like the fourth game, and when Carter gets hurt, we have three people left to play," said defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who also oversees the secondary. "When we're in our Tiger package, all of our corners are on the field."

Trailing 14-7, Maryland quarterback Joel Statham caught fire, hurling two touchdowns over the final 2:24 of the first half to give the Terrapins a 21-14 halftime advantage.

The lackadaisical performance also garnered some more fire - this time of a vocal nature - in the locker room at the half.

"You either give up or buckle up," Andrews said. "We told them at halftime, "You're either going to let up or buckle that chin strap up tighter and play a football game.' "

FSU took heed, holding Statham to seven completions for 42 yards and an interception on 15 attempts in the second half.

"We just came out with the determination that they aren't going to get any touchdowns anymore," said Bryant, who made his first career start and had six tackles. "And that's what happened; we just played, and played well."

Bryant hit his learning curve early in the second quarter when he was beaten for a 29-yard completion by tight end Vernon Davis on a slant pattern. Maryland tied it at 14 eight plays later.

"That's what you're afraid of," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "You're playing young corners out there. You are concerned that people are going to set them up, bait them and all that kind of stuff."

Andrews said that Carter's shoulder popped back into place; he expects to be sore and no timetable on his return was available. Carrying only three corners, however, isn't an option Andrews wants to entertain.

"We've got to get some kids healthy somehow."