'Frustrated' 'Noles defense has no answers

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 25, 2007

GAINESVILLE - Florida State sophomore linebacker Dekoda Watson sat in the postgame interview room, calmly but somberly tackling question after question, and the answers eluded him.

Just like Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin and, well, just about anyone else wearing a Florida jersey in Saturday's 45-12 win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"It's frustrating," Watson said.

Watson added the defense seemed to lack fire at times.

"Plenty of times, it showed," he said. "You could see it for yourself. We kind of just laid down. Then we'd pick it up and go back down when a big play happened.

"It's frustrating."

The Seminoles entered 27th nationally in defense 333 yards per game but allowed 541 (279 rushing and 262 passing) and didn't force a punt until midway through the third.

"I can't ever remember one like that," coach Bobby Bowden said. "We played Nebraska in 1981, and I'm not sure if we ever stopped them."

Pretty good memory, Coach. The Cornhuskers had 543 that day. But actually, you only have to go back a dozen years, when Danny Wuerffel and the Gators had 587 in a 35-24 win. Of course, that Gator team eventually played for the national title.

This year, the No. 12 Gators won't even play for the SEC title.

"They're a good offense, don't get me wrong," said Watson, the only defensive player who spoke. "But at the same time, there's a lot of mistakes that we made. We weren't tackling. We were busting coverages. I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Yeah, they did all that themselves. They ran all over us.' I'm not saying they can't be stopped because they can."

That's after Watson said last week the chance to face Tebow, a Heisman candidate, afforded each FSU defensive player a chance to make a name for himself.

That's after junior linebacker Geno Hayes said he and his teammates would have the attitude that "Tebow is going down" and they were "hopefully going to shatter his dream" of the Heisman.

"What did he say? We have to stop Tebow to win. Wasn't he correct?" Bowden said. "Wouldn't we have loved for that to happen. We were just telling it like it was. That blackboard stuff don't bother me, and I don't think it bothered Tebow, do ya'll?"

It didn't look that way, especially when it seemed as if FSU might have a bit of momentum to start the second half. But the Gators ran it six straight times for 81 yards, Tebow going the last 5 for a touchdown and 31-12 lead.

"I thought we were going to come out in the second half dominating," Watson said, "I don't know. I really don't know. We came out there, and we were hyped. But at the same time, they were still driving the ball down our throats.

"I don't know what was happening."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.