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September 1, 2012
Florida State running back James Wilder came into the postgame interview room with a smile, sweat-drenched gear and a worn-out football smashed tightly between his left palm and bicep.
He fired through each question, one after another and the ball never moved. The grin never left, either.
For a Florida State season opener that will soon be an afterthought, just a 69-3 win over Murray State to go in media guides and game logs earmarked as a light warmup and nothing more, it will be unforgettable for Wilder.
After a tumultuous offseason off the field which saw him miss most of spring practice and spend nine days in Leon County Jail, the former five-star recruit notched his first career 100-yard game, going for 102 yards and two scores in front of 70,047 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"I haven't let it go yet," Wilder said, looking down at his prize. "That's the first thing I came (to get) in the locker room, I asked 'Can I please get the game ball?' I just have the glass box waiting. I bought the glass box at the beginning of the season just waiting for it - whenever I get my first 100-yard game, I'm putting the ball in there."
Thanks to Wilder and a host of others, the No. 7 Seminoles (1-0) were balanced and overwhelmed the Racers (0-1) to the tune of 606 total yards. Wilder led the rushing attack that amassed 285 yards and seven rushing touchdowns while Florida State's three quarterbacks - EJ Manuel, Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker - combined to throw for 321 yards and a score.
The Seminoles wasted little time disposing of Murray State, scoring the first time an offensive player touched the football. Receiver Rashad Greene took a punt back 47 yards for the first points of the night just 89 seconds into the contest. It was Greene's debut as the Seminoles punt return man in place of the decorated Greg Reid, who was dismissed from the team this offseason.
From there, the rout was on. The Seminoles took a 28-3 lead by halftime, flexing its muscle on a pair of second-quarter touchdown drives that required only five plays apiece.
"Very comfortable," Manuel said of the two scoring drives where he went a combined 5-for-5 for 94 yards and notched the lone passing score, a 6-yard strike to Kenny Shaw. Manuel finished 16-of-22 passing for 188 yards before giving way to Trickett in the third quarter. "Everything was hitting for us, we were traveling right down the field."
Then came the Wilder show. His rumbling, physical running style fitting his 226-pound frame, Wilder ran five times for 66 yards and a 9-yard scoring plunge in the third quarter alone. It continued in the fourth with seven more tough-toting carries for 40 yards and another touchdown.
Wilder said it was an invigorating performance given his offseason. He was arrested in April and placed on probation, then was sentenced to nine days in jail for a probation violation in June. The initial arrest forced him to miss all of spring practice.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was pleased with Wilder's look despite the missed work.
"He's strong now," Fisher said. "He's a man and he brings a different dimension and it's good to see him get in that groove more and more.
"We're going to keep feeding it to him, we're going to keep pounding, he's got to become a weapon in what we're doing now."
The Seminoles scored 20 points in the third quarter and 21 more in the fourth.Fullback Lonnie Pryor parlayed Wilder's breakout game with five carries for 28 yards and the three scores. Pryor is the first FSU player to rush for three touchdowns since Ty Jones had three against Virginia Tech in 2010. Reserve running back Debrale Smiley scored two 1-yard fourth quarter touchdowns while kicker Dustin Hopkins added a pair of field goals in the second half.
A strong effort from Florida State's defense kept the entire Racers offense just above Wilder's production, mustering just 156 total yards. Murray State added its only points of the game on a 28-yard field goal from Jordan Benton in the second quarter.
FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner was dominant, recording five tackles - all for loss - and four sacks.
"It was a great win, we worked hard," Wilder said.
Yes, even a blowout against a lowly opponent, this one will always be great to Wilder.
"I'm sleeping with the football tonight," he said.
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