TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Look hard enough, and you could see glimpses of the old Florida State. And by "old Florida State," I mean great Florida State -- the Florida State that used to out-athlete other teams, dominate other teams, destroy other teams.
Shoot, you didn't have to look all that hard. The old Florida State was all over the place Saturday, when the Seminoles were all over Brigham Young in a 34-10 evisceration of the freefalling Cougars.
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FSU tailback Chris Thompson, a third-stringer entering the game, ripped off an 83-yard touchdown sprint in the second quarter, ran 34 yards in the third quarter and finished with 123 yards on nine carries. I'm guessing he'll move up the depth chart for Florida State's game next Saturday against Wake Forest.
Another FSU tailback, second-stringer Ty Jones, was the thunder to Thompson's lightning. Jones scored twice, ran over BYU players like he was mad at 'em, and finished with 95 yards on 15 carries.
One FSU receiver, junior Bert Reed, is a possession guy who caught nine passes to up his career total to 100 in 2 1/4 seasons, but he's athletic enough to make two BYU defenders miss him in the same way on the same play, stopping -- and then starting -- twice as tacklers flew past him. Another FSU receiver, Willie Haulstead, won a 34-yard jump ball at the BYU 6 to set up a short touchdown run two plays later.
That touchdown was scored by FSU quarterback Christian Ponder. One week after he was miserable against Oklahoma -- 11 for 28 for 113 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in Florida State's 47-17 loss -- Ponder was the most effective player on the field Saturday. He threw for 149 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 50 yards and a TD.
"Christian being Christian," first-year FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of his quarterback, considered among the top prospects at the position for the 2011 NFL Draft. "Christian was back like gangbusters."
Great quarterback, great receivers, great tailbacks ... that's how it was in Bobby Bowden's heyday. Maybe that's how it'll be in Fisher's heyday, too. Just because it happened Saturday, however, doesn't mean that Florida State is all the way back. It's not. FSU looked good on Saturday, yes, but FSU looked good because BYU is bad.
|Ty Jones is one of multiple FSU running backs to have an easy day of work against bumbling and stumbling BYU. (US Presswire)|
This is probably the worst BYU team in Bronco Mendenhall's six years as head coach. And don't think that I've forgotten his first year, in 2005, when BYU went 6-6. That BYU team was the definition of mediocre, but this BYU team is the definition of bad. The Cougars have two quarterbacks, which means the Cougars have no quarterbacks. They produced just 191 yards of offense against Florida State, and their running defense is atrocious. Last Saturday, Air Force ran for 409 yards. This Saturday, Florida State ran for 278.
BYU is 1-2, with blowout losses to Air Force and Florida State following a narrow victory against Washington -- the same Washington that was demolished at home Saturday by Nebraska. BYU is bad. If it qualifies for a bowl game this season, that'll tell you all you need to know about the Mountain West. A year from now BYU will become a football independent, a move that will look good in the short term only if the Cougars schedule wisely. Which is to say, weakly.
As for the rest of this season, BYU is looking at a 1-4 start with games the following two weeks against Nevada and at Utah State. I hear you, Utah State is not very good. But neither is BYU. And besides, Utah State nearly beat Oklahoma in the season opener. Florida State was blown away by Oklahoma one week later. And Florida State blew away BYU. The transitive property of mathematics doesn't always work for college football, but I like my odds of it working this time.
But the whole topic is irrelevant, because for the rest of the 2010 season, BYU football is irrelevant. Florida State, however, is not. As bad as they looked last week against Oklahoma, the Seminoles still could compete for the ACC title. The league is markedly down -- and when it's good, Florida State is up.
"Oklahoma beat us, but they didn't break us," Fisher said. "We took away some lessons from last week. We learned something. Our team is learning to fight."
Florida State was good Saturday. BYU skews that somewhat, muddling the issue with its basic badness, but FSU made several of the kinds of plays that defined the program when Bowden had his program on autopilot (in a good way, I mean).
Ty Jones put even garbage plays into the highlight reel. He broke five tackles on a 5-yard carry to the BYU 1 in the third quarter. On the Seminoles' next drive he was given the ball up the middle on third-and-15, a percentage play designed to create field position for the ensuing punt, only Jones was having none of that. He plowed through weak BYU arm tackles for 20 yards and a first down. Later in that drive he gained 12 yards by sliding past one tackler, stepping out of two potential tackles and then stopping to let a fourth BYU tackler speed past. Jones scored on fourth-and-goal from the 9, Fisher calling a running play up the middle because a field goal with a 27-10 lead and just 1:40 left in the game would have looked like unsportsmanlike. But then Jones cruelly ran over two BYU linebackers at the 5 before popping into the end zone for the final margin.
It wasn't just Jones making like Edgar Bennett. It was Thompson making like Warrick Dunn, and it was kicker Dustin Hopkins making like Sebastian Janikowski, drilling a 49-yard field goal above the uprights -- it would have been good from 65 -- and blasting five of his seven kickoffs deep into the end zone for touchbacks.
Florida State isn't all the way back, but it's better than it has been. Somebody tell the fickle FSU fan base, spoiled as it was by Bowden's remarkable run of the 1990s, when the Seminoles reached a BCS-caliber bowl nine years in a row -- and won six of them. Two games into this season, FSU fans haven't come within 14,000 of filling 82,300-capacity Doak Campbell Stadium. On Saturday the crowd was announced at 68,795, looked more like 60,000, and was half-capacity at best for the fourth quarter.
FSU fans know -- FSU football isn't back. But it's coming. You can see it from here.