September 26, 2009 12:18 PM

Fisher's Former Pupil Continues to Struggle

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Following Wednesday evening's practice, Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher discovered a gift waiting for him when he greeted his wife as he left the field: a framed and autographed poster of Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Fisher coached Russell at LSU, helping Russell develop into the top overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft. A lot has changed since their last season together at LSU in 2006.

Fisher left Baton Rouge for Tallahassee after the season, and Russell soon began his quest to find the same success in the NFL that he enjoyed at LSU. So far, Fisher is having better luck as FSU's coach-in-waiting.

Meanwhile, Russell continues to struggle finding his place in the NFL. In the Raiders' 13-10 victory over Kansas City in Week 2, Russell completed only 7 of 24 passes for 109 yards, leaving Oakland officials concerned.

"We're working through trying to get a confidence level with everybody involved from routes, from his footwork, his decision-making, the protection and all of it right has left us all extremely disappointed because it's very easy to pick one guy," Ted Tollner, Oakland's passing-game coordinator, told AOL FanHouse. "It never is quite that way. It's a package of things. For his position, when you're playing as poorly as we did last week, a lot of it falls on the quarterback. That's what happens in the game."

Russell's lack of accuracy -- his 35.2 percent completion percentage is the lowest in the league -- is Oakland's biggest concern.

Fisher remains high on his former star pupil and plans to find a nice place for the framed photo on the wall in his home office.

September 21, 2009 5:34 PM

Mickey Andrews Press Conference

Hey, after an unexpected absence last week, SSC is back and ready to roll. Florida State fans have a renewed sense of hope after the Seminoles crushed No. 7 BYU 54-28 on the road Saturday.

The Seminoles jumped to No. 18 in the polls and host South Florida on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. I'm here at the coordinators' weekly press conference inside the Moore Athletic Center.

Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is at the podium. Here is what he is talking about:

* "Our emphasis was really to get to the football this week,'' he says. FSU intercepted BYU quarterback Max Hall three times, including a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by freshman Greg Reid. "Some kids just have a knack of making big plays. He can do that.''

Reid was named ACC Freshman of the Week on Monday for his performance at BYU.

Andrews liked the way the young FSU defense played at a high energy level after a disappointing effort in a 19-9 win over Jacksonville State the previous week.

I'm going to listen in and ask a few questions of Andrews, and later offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and quarterback Christian Ponder.

I'll post an update later today discussing what this victory really means for the Florida State football program.

September 12, 2009 11:27 PM

Jacksonville State Leads FSU at Halftime

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A colleague just stopped by here in the press box at Doak Campbell Stadium and asked what someone at home watching TV might think as the following halftime score scrolled across the bottom of the screen: Jacksonville State 9, Florida State 7.

Let your imagination run wild on that one.

As for why, it's pretty simple: Jacksonville State has played better.

The Gamecocks had 180 yards in the first half to FSU's 162, but a 67-36 advantage rushing. FSU also had the game's only turnover and fumbled three times total.

Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder had a decent first half (9 of 13, 126 yards), but he was sacked twice.

The second half is going to be very interesting to say the least. If the Gamecocks pull off the upset, it's safe to say this could be the low point of Bobby Bowden's tenure.

September 12, 2009 10:27 PM

A Pair of Interesting Storylines

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If there ever was a game I'm glad to own a press pass for, this is it. The sky opened up above Doak Campbell Stadium just as Jacksonville State and Florida State came out for the coin flip, turning the field into an outdoor shower.

What a mess.

The wet weather didn't stop Jacksonville State from marching down the field on its opening drive. Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Perrilloux tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Young to put Jacksonville State up 6-0. The extra-point attempt failed when the snap was bobbled.

There are two storylines that really intrigue me for this game:

1) How will FSU respond after Monday night's heartbreaking 38-34 loss to Miami? The Seminoles travel to BYU next week and desperately need to take some positives out of today. The Noles should obviously beat the less-talented Gamecocks, but they don't need to struggle.

2) How much of an impact will Perrilloux have on the game? The former LSU quarterback, who played there for current FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, is making his season debut after serving a one-game suspension last week. The Seminoles must apply more pressure on Perrilloux than they did Miami's Jacory Harris to keep out of trouble.

Check back later for more.

September 8, 2009 7:00 AM

Miami-FSU Rivalry Goes Old School

This was Miami-Florida State the way we remember. You know, when the 'Canes and 'Noles mattered. When they staged some of the greatest games of the 1980s and '90s. When the winner often played for the national title, and the loser rarely lost to anyone else.

Yep, seemed like old times at Doak Campbell Stadium on Monday night. To make sure, I checked a calender and my waistline. Both assured me it was 2009, not 1989 or 1999.

Miami 38, FSU 34. An instant classic and perhaps the best game of college football's opening weekend. FSU coach Bobby Bowden called it "a great game,'' the third-best game he could remember being a part of behind FSU's 1987 home loss to Miami and a loss at Notre Dame.

ACC officials immediately filed prayer requests for a rematch in Tampa in the struggling ACC Championship Game come December.

The game wasn't decided until the final play when Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder rolled to his right with five seconds left and threw a pass to Jarmon Fortson in the end zone. The ball was low but catchable. It went through Fortson's arms, and hit the ground.

Not until the officials reviewed the play did the 81,077 in attendance finally take a breath. It was that kind of night.

"We had a chance to win it, and we couldn't come up with the ball,'' Bowden said.

While FSU failed to score a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, the Seminoles walked off the field confident.

"This is a good team,'' receiver Bert Reed set. "We lost this game, but we're not going to let this drag us down. We're too good to let one game get us down.''

What did the Noles learn Monday?

* Ponder looks like the real deal. The redshirt junior finished 24 of 41 for a career-high 294 yards and looked poised and confident.

* True freshman Greg Reid could be that playmaker that Bowden says FSU has missed of late. Reid picked off a pass, had 100 yards in kickoff returns, and caused Miami quarterback Jacory Harris to throw an interception on a hit.

* FSU's secondary is a mess. Harris threw for 386 yards and faced little pressure.

* Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has a lot of work to do before the Seminoles host Jacksonville State on Monday; meanwhile, for the first time since he arrived at FSU in 2007, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher is comfortable with the starting quarterback and it showed by his play-calling.

More analysis to come on Tuesday from FSU's performance against Miami.

September 8, 2009 2:49 AM

We've Got a Ballgame in Tallahassee

The fourth quarter is about to start at Doak Campbell Stadium, and Miami and Florida State have not disappointed us.

The Hurricanes are driving following a Christian Ponder fumble and FSU holding a 23-17 lead.

Ponder has enjoyed the best game of his young career. The redshirt junior is 21-for-32 for 276 yards and two touchdowns after three quarters. He also scored on a 10-yard run.

Miami's Jacory Harris has also had a good game, hitting 13 of 22 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown.

Check back later for analysis of what happened.

September 8, 2009 1:44 AM

Miami 14, FSU 10 (Halftime)

The last two times Miami and Florida State opened the season against each other (2005 and 2006), they looked like two aging boxers returning to the ring after long layoffs.

In the first half of Monday night's game, the Hurricanes and Seminoles reminded everyone of what made this college football's greatest rivalry in the late 1980s and 1990s. Both teams were crisp, fast and not nearly as rusty as some teams looked over the weekend during the first weekend of the season.

The Hurricanes led thanks to a 6-yard run by Javarris James with 42 seconds left before halftime. FSU broke a 7-7 tie on freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins' 52-yard field goal late in the first half.

We'll wait until after the game to decided which of these proud programs appears closer to being back among the nation's elite. But if the first half is any indication, both teams appear headed in the right direction.

Here are some key stats from the first half:

* Miami quarterback Jacory Harris was 10-for-15 for 177 yards and one touchdown.

* FSU quarterback Christian Ponder passed for 175 yards on 15-of-20 passing. He threw one touchdown and a late interception.

* Miami had 229 yards; FSU 192.

September 8, 2009 1:09 AM

Miami, FSU Make Strong First Impressions

Everybody knows by now that the Miami-Florida State game isn't what it used to be. Instead of national championship implications, Monday night's season opener was mostly a measuring stick for which program's rebuilding project is making more progress.

There were a lot more questions than answers for both teams. The Seminoles entered ranked No. 18, and according to most, appear ahead of the Hurricanes in the rebuilding department.

After one quarter here at Doak Campbell Stadium, it's difficult to tell which team looks best so far. Both scored on their opening drives, Miami striking first on Jacory Harris' 39-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin.
On the ensuing drive, FSU redshirt junior quarterback Christian Ponder drove the Seminoles 67 yards on 13 plays, capping the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Caz Piurowski. Ponder was 7-for-8 for 72 yards on the drive, a hopeful sign for those Nole fans tired of quarterback struggles the past several seasons.
The first quarter ended evenly, with both teams getting four first downs and Miami holding a 93-85 advantage in total yards.
I'll be back for a halftime update shortly.

September 4, 2009 5:15 PM

No Joke: Good Seats Left for Miami-FSU Game

There is a lot of chatter on sports-talk radio and Internet message boards in the Sunshine State about Monday night's primetime showdown between Miami and No. 18-ranked Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium.

In this rivalry's prime, no other matchup in the country generated as much media coverage or fan interest. These days? The Virginia Tech-Alabama game on Saturday is the one most of the pundits are excited about.

You want proof how much this rivalry needs a boost? As of late Thursday, FSU's ticket office reported that more than 5,000 tickets remain for the Labor Day evening game on ESPN.

The players and coaches still talk about Miami-FSU like it's 1989 or 1999. However, they are the only ones at this point as both programs try to climb back to the top of the polls.

While both programs have been down in recent years, I'm still somewhat shocked that so many tickets remain available. When I asked FSU coach Bobby Bowden about the lagging ticket sales earlier this week, he cited the economy as the No. 1 factor.

I agree the economy is more to blame than the fact the game is on a Monday night in Tallahassee, at least a three- to four-hour drive from the majority of the state's largest cities. The Orlando Sentinel listed these reasons as why the game won't be a sellout.

Still, when these two teams met four years ago to open the season on Labor Day night at Doak, they drew the largest crowd (84,347) in the history of FSU's home stadium. The second-largest crowd? The 2003 FSU-Miami game that drew 84,336 to a stadium that has a capacity listed at 82,300.

Even in 2007 when the Hurricanes last visited FSU -- with both programs clearly in rebuilding mode -- a sellout crowd of 82,738 showed up.

Bad economy and all, college football just isn't the same when a Miami-FSU can't pack the house.

August 30, 2009 4:32 PM

Are FSU Coaches Being Candid or Coy?

As I walked off the field at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon, I had two initial thoughts following Florida State's final preseason scrimmage before hosting Miami on Sept. 7.

1) FSU's coaches should send thank-you letters to the Atlantic Coast Conference and ESPN for giving them a couple of extra days this week to prepare for the Labor Day evening showdown with the Hurricanes, or

2) The Seminoles' coaching staff is working overtime at building a huge smoke screen in preparing for Miami.

Here are some of the coaches' comments after Saturday's scrimmage, which focused primarily on clock management and other in-game situations involving personnel changes:

"I didn’t see anything real exciting happen," said head coach Bobby Bowden. "If I was criticizing, my first criticism would be too many yellow flags – penalty after penalty after penalty."

"I don’t know if there was anything I liked,'' offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "It was just a very average day, very ho-hum. We’ll be ready when the time comes, I promise.''

Defensively, the Seminoles remained without defensive tackles Kendrick Stewart, Budd Thacker and Justin Mincey due to injuries. While Bowden said he hopes to have Stewart and Thacker back at practice this week, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews sounded as if he preferred Peter Boulware, Marvin Jones and Deion Sanders back in garnet and gold.

"The thing that you notice right off the bat is we weren’t ready to play a football game,'' Andrews said. "We couldn’t have beaten Miami today defensively. It would have all been on the offense. I guess they had something more important to do today than to go out there and simulate whipping Miami."

The good news: freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins, competing with James Esco to be the starting place-kicker, made all four of his field goals. He was good from 44, 43, 34 and 26 yards.

Who'd thunk it? The kicker actually getting rave reviews Miami week.

Here are more quotes:

“Mainly, to try and get these doggone mistakes corrected and try and execute better. [Next week] will be preparing more for what Miami does. The whole key now is taking the next week and correcting these yellow flags. If we don’t do that, we’re going to have a hard time winning." -- Bowden on the primary focus starting Monday.

"[This team] needs more time. We need to clean up little things and make their minds up how to do it." -- Fisher on the overall mentality entering Miami week."The most disappointing thing to me is that we didn’t knock anybody down. There weren’t many people put on their back. That meant we were hitting anybody. That’s not a good sign for a defense. Somehow or another, we’ve got to regain the enthusiasm that you are supposed to have on defense. We act like it’s a chore instead of a fun opportunity." -- Andrews on his unit's sub-par effort.

So what do I make of all this? The coaches obviously have some concerns they will address this week in practice, highlighted by the mental mistakes leading to the large number of penalties Saturday. And no doubt, Andrews is not happy with his unit's overall progress, but then again, he rarely is. That's his nature and his way of keeping constant pressure on his players, one reason he is considered one of the finest defensive coordinators in the modern era.

As for Fisher, he has been mostly positive this preseason when talking about his unit's play, but with the game quickly approaching, he is entering game mode (i.e. saying little of significance and playing possum to keep Miami guessing).

What I know for certain: Players, coaches, fans and us media types are ready for the season to begin.

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