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'A lot of work to do'
That's Bobby Bowden on FSU's offense, which again starts slow but picks it up in the second half.
By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2007
TALLAHASSEE - The Florida State offense, a work in progress to be sure with a remade staff putting in a new system, took a step or two forward Saturday night.
Had it not, well, don't even go there.
It wouldn't have been pleasant for FSU fans.
After another sluggish first half, the Seminoles looked sharp, scoring three second-half touchdowns to rally for a 34-24 win against UAB before an announced crowd of 78,673 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"The boys stayed in there and fought," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "As you can tell, we've still got a lot of work to do."
At least the Seminoles 1-1 rebounded from their lackluster showing on Labor Day at Clemson, a 24-18 loss in which they trailed by three touchdowns at the half and needed some Clemson kicking woes to even have a chance to win late.
But then the Blazers (0-2) aren't the Clemson Tigers. The visitors were blown out in their season opener at Michigan State, 55-18, allowing a whopping 593 yards of total offense.
Just the panacea the Seminoles needed, right?
Like the Seminoles discovered last season at this time - following a Labor Day showdown five nights later against Troy in which they needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to eke out a 24-17 win - the pushovers sometimes push back.
"They came in here and just took it to us like they were the top team in the country," Bowden said.
UAB capitalized on a pair of FSU turnovers (a Drew Weatherford interception returned for a touchdown and fumble by struggling senior receiver De'Cody Fagg) to take a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter.
But the Seminoles, whose offensive woes also included failing to convert fourth and 1 from the 7 midway through the quarter, didn't seem to be as uneasy as their fans.
Weatherford hit tight end Charlie Graham for a 2-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 17-10 at the half. And FSU looked like a more confident bunch in the second half.
Even with star junior tailback Antone Smith going out with a concussion, the Seminoles line blocked better. The receivers ran their routes correctly and held onto the ball, even when they were leveled as junior Greg Carr was on a touchdown catch. The backup running backs ran hard. And the quarterback made good decisions, spreading the ball to his receivers and backs (eight in all) downfield (junior receiver Richard Goodman had a 50-yard touchdown) and in the flats.
"We finally came together and jelled," Weatherford said. "And I kind of got into a groove that I hadn't gotten into."
Weatherford was 12-of-17 for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. He finished 22-of-35 for 332 yards - the most since last season against Troy - and three scores to go with his one very, very bad interception.
"The thing I was most impressed about it - not the turnover, we've got to stop that - is he stayed very poised in what he did. He didn't panic," new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I was very proud of the way he stepped up and really in that third quarter got hot and led us back. He made some strides."
Even after UAB tied it at 24, the Seminoles came right back and moved the ball. For the game, the offense amassed 520 yards, the most since 539 against Duke in 2005.
"It gives the guys confidence to see what happens when we execute and do what Coach wants done," Carr said. "You see big gains and points on the board. It was big. We were down after the Clemson game, and to be able to come out and execute felt real good."
"Baby steps," Fisher added. "When you learn how to win, you don't try to lose in the beginning. That's what we were trying to do. But at least we learned to stay poised. And when we had opportunities to come back and make plays to go ahead, we did."