Defense suddenly looks like a veteran group

The young Seminoles rekindle memories of past feats with a shutout and defensive TD.

Published November 5, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - It had been so many games since Florida State held its opponent scoreless, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews quit counting.

It had been 38 games since the Seminoles shut out Notre Dame in South Bend 37-0 during the 2003 season.

Cornerback Tony Carter jogged his coach's memory quickly, intercepting a pass for a touchdown on the game's opening drive, doing his part to rattle the Virginia offense and lead the Seminoles to a 33-0 win Saturday.

"I can't tell you how big that (play) is," coach Bobby Bowden said. "How long has that been? We had not had that in a while."

So Andrews isn't the only one losing count of defensive feats.

It had been 18 games, to be exact, since Florida State returned an interception for a touchdown, when linebacker A.J. Nicholson ran one back against Boston College in the third game of the 2005 season.

Virginia's offense had seemed to forget many things itself. After Carter's quick strike, the Cavaliers punted on their next six possessions and totaled only 58 yards of offense over that stretch.

The Cavaliers mustered only 183 yards against the FSU defense, a unit that is young by necessity, not by decision. Four of the 11 opening-day starters and three key reserves were inactive for Saturday's game.

"The most exciting thing to me right now is young guys that have a future," Bowden said. "We've got such good young kids out here."

Defensive end Kevin McNeill, a freshman, spearheaded the underclassmen effort by sacking quarterback Jameel Sewell twice. Sewell was on the run often; he was 17-of-32 passing for 125 yards and totaled 16 rushes for minus-26 yards. Six of those rushes were FSU sacks.

Freshman safety Myron Rolle tied for the team lead with nine tackles.

"We played a complete game," Rolle said. "Our whole defense played well, from the old guys to the young guys."

Virginia started a pair of drives in FSU territory - both in the second half - but on those possessions the Cavaliers ran six plays for a loss of 1 yard. The Seminoles' defense never allowed a Virginia snap inside the FSU 30.

"That's the thing that just pleases you so much, the way these young kids are learning how to fight," Andrews said. "We're not there yet, but we're getting better."

The defense might not have to improve much, as long as it doesn't forget how it played Saturday.