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Davis learns from near-miss to set up winning drive

After a tip that sets up a Troy TD, linebacker Buster Davis sees a similar play developing and gets his pick.

By D.C. R EEVES
Published September 10, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Whether by accident or defensive prowess, the hands of FSU middle linebacker Buster Davis set up two touchdowns Saturday night.

The first time his gloves grazed the football, they put Florida State in a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to the Troy Trojans. But the second time he brought the ball to his chest, and that interception sparked the decisive drive during FSU's 24-17 win at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Davis and the FSU defense watched as a large chunk of Troy's 46 pass attempts were completed near the sidelines, keeping Davis away from a lot of plays and building a little impatience in the defensive team captain as the game wore on.

"It gets frustrating. They did a lot of checking off today," said Davis, who finished with eight tackles. "If I was on one side, they would check off to the other side; if I was on the other side they would check off, so it was kind of like a checkers match, see who could make the best move."

In a tie game and with the Trojan offense deep in the red zone early in the fourth quarter, Davis thought his big move was made.

On third and 7, Davis tipped a pass from Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook at the FSU 2, but the ball was in the air long enough for receiver Gary Banks to make an unlikely diving catch at the FSU 1. Haugabook dived over the goal line on the next play and Troy, a 29½-point underdog, took a 17-10 lead with just 11:12 left.

"I looked back and said, 'I'll be god-dog,' " Davis said. "But what can you say? I mean, the guy made a great catch."

The Seminoles matched the tough-luck touchdown, tying the score with an 11-play, 81-yard drive on the next possession.

Once the Troy offense took the field again with 6:02 left, Davis made his best move.

Davis - in zone coverage well off the line of scrimmage - noticed the receiver running a route similar to his earlier tipped pass and jumped to nab the interception at the Troy 28. FSU fullback Joe Surratt scored five plays later to ice the game.

"I tipped that (earlier) pass and thought I had it," said Davis, who won the Bronco Nagurski national defensive player of the week award with his performance against Miami on Monday. "But (defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews) called the right coverage and I sat back there and played 'hide below' and had a nice little pick. You've got to make the play."

Perhaps Davis and the Seminoles should not have had to make a fourth-quarter interception to get past a team like Troy, six years removed from I-AA, but Davis was able to find a source of optimism in a rather busy and tiring week.

"(Troy) played like Super Bowl champs out there," he said. "But going 2-0 in six days, you've got to feel really good about yourself."