Big O, little D
High-scoring Florida State was a defensive wreck against Georgia Tech
You think The Sixth Sense is scary? Imagine designing a defense against Florida State. In last Saturday night's 41-35 victory over Georgia Tech in Tallahassee, the top-ranked Seminoles used three quarterbacks in the first quarter without bringing anybody in from the bench. All-world senior wideout Peter Warrick took two snaps and accounted for 37 yards and a touchdown, and 255-pound starting fullback Dan Kendra, a former Florida State quarterback, lined up under center and sneaked for a first down on third-and-one. Oh, yeah, regular quarterback Chris Weinke completed five of nine passes for 90 yards in the first quarter. For the game Weinke threw for 267 yards, Warrick caught eight passes for 142 yards, and junior tailback Travis Minor rushed for 122 yards. Choose your poison.
"They're fast, they use a whole bunch of formations and plays, and they've got Peter Warrick," said Yellow Jackets senior safety Travares Tillman after last Saturday's defeat "That's why they're the best team in the country."
That must be it, because the Seminoles' defense certainly can't take any credit after failing to show up against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets rang up 501 yards, 387 of them on a breathtaking 22-for-25, four-touchdown passing performance by senior quarterback Joe Hamilton. "We stunk," said Seminoles senior defensive tackle Corey Simon afterward. Added defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, "Thank goodness the offense was there to bail us out."
This is news. A year ago Florida State was ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, the culmination of a decade-long rise in which the Seminoles had redefined defensive end play and established their D as among the most consistently intimidating in the country. Georgia Tech showed no respect for this legacy. The Yellow Jackets scored quickly from long distance (Hamilton threw touchdown passes of 80 and 56 yards) and twice drove 80 yards in 10 plays. "It's safe to say we didn't play like we're used to playing," said Florida State senior cornerback Mario Edwards, who was burned on the game's final touchdown, a 22-yard pass from Hamilton to sophomore flanker Kelly Campbell, who made a spectacular one-handed grab to bring Georgia Tech within six points with 1:35 to play.
More to the point, the Yellow Jackets weren't surprised by the Seminoles' fallibility. "We watched tape, and we saw that we would score on them," said Tech senior center Noah King. One tape the Yellow Jackets watched was of Florida State's 23-16 loss to Tennessee in last season's Fiesta Bowl national championship game. The Vols didn't roll up tons of offense (392 yards) on the Seminoles but consistently moved the ball on bootleg passes and deep balls. The objective of both Tennessee and Georgia Tech was to use Florida State's speed and aggression against it, catching the Seminoles out of position. Like Vols quarterback Tee Martin, Hamilton can run and pass, only better.
Florida State's front four of Simon, senior tackle Jerry Johnson and junior ends Roland Seymour and Jamal Reynolds were largely effective, holding Tech to 114 yards on the ground and sacking Hamilton three times. However, the Seminoles' deep seven were terrible, getting outhustled on two catch-and-run touchdowns and overpursuing all night on Hamilton.
The tape of Saturday's game will soon be a must-see in viewing rooms in Miami and Gainesville. (Florida State hosts Miami on Oct. 9 and plays at Florida on Nov. 20.) One thing is certain: The Seminoles will not win the national championship with 10 more defensive efforts like Saturday's, regardless of how spectacularly their offense plays.
Can't Run, Can't Stop the Run
The Pacific-10, once the home of USC's student body left, can't run the ball anymore—or stop most nonconference opponents that do. The league hasn't produced a running back who finished in the top five of the Heisman Trophy voting since the Trojans' Marcus Allen won the award in 1981 or a consensus All-America running back since Russell White of California in '91. On the other side of the ball, the Pac-10 has lost six of the last seven Rose Bowls to more balanced, more physical opponents from the Big Ten.