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September 15, 2012
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Florida State's first test of the season was passed and dismissed before halftime.
The fifth-ranked Seminoles improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2005 as they steamrolled Wake Forest 52-0 on Saturday afternoon.
The offense relied on a dominant ground game, rushing for 385 yards and four scores, including 197 yards and two touchdowns from an emotionally-charged Chris Thompson.
The Demon Deacons (2-1, 1-1 ACC) managed just 126 yards of total offense in the game, were 1 of 16 on third-down conversions, and averaged a measly 1.2 yards per rush.
"I wanted the guys to know this is a statement game," said quarterback EJ Manuel, who was 15 of 24 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. "We lost to Wake last year, had some injuries or whatever but this is a statement. We hope we made some noise in the country today."
After a somewhat slow start, FSU found the endzone on a 16-yard touchdown run by Manuel, followed by a 60-yard punt return by Rashad Greene just minute and 43 seconds later to make it 14-0.
In the second quarter it was Thompson and the ground game that took over with scoring runs of 74 and 80 yards. Manuel connected with Rodney Smith for a 20-yard score just 14 seconds before halftime and found Kenny Shaw for a 17-yard score in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 48-0 with 0:44 left in the third quarter.
Thompson finished the game with a career-high 220 all-purpose yards as he added 23 yards receiving on two catches to his career-day on the ground. It was an emotional day for the senior running back who suffered a broken back against Wake Forest last season.
FSU finished the game with 612 yards of total offense. On the ground FSU ran for an average of 8.6 yards per rush on 45 attempts. In addition to the scores from Manuel and Thompson, Debrale Smiley scored on an 18-yard run as well, and James Wilder rushed for 94 yards on a team-high 16 carries.
"The energy was there before the game," said starting center Bryan Stork. "I felt it. Everybody was focused. From waking up this morning, everybody was on time. It starts with the little things and when Chris is running the ball like that it's pleasing to see as an offensive lineman because you know you did your job, he did his job and we're all doing it as a team."
The Demon Deacons offense had no answers for FSU as the Seminoles' defensive line dismantled each and every scoring opportunity. The Demon Deacons managed just 43 yards on the ground - 34 of which came on one play - and Tanner Price was just 8 of 22 for 82 yards.
With the exception of Josh Harris' 34-yard run in the first quarter, the biggest difference for the FSU defensive unit versus last year's matchup against Wake Forest was that defenders stayed home and in their gaps as the Demon Deacons ran misdirection runs and reveres.
"It was simple. We watched the tape from (Wake Forest) last week against North Carolina and seen that a lot of the big plays came off of guys playing undisciplined," said sophomore defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. "That's our biggest thing. Whatever Coach (Odell) Haggins tells us to do we make sure it gets done. I don't care if he tells us to run through a wall we're going to try to do it."
Jernigan finished the game with a team-high six tackles as he and fellow defensive tackles Everett Dawkins (three tackles, one for loss) and Anthony McCloud (three tackles), controlled the line of scrimmage.
Off the edge Bjoern Werner continued his torrid start to the 2012 season with four tackles, 2.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks to bring his season total to 6.5 (he had seven all last season). Cornellius Carradine was just as disruptive on the other side as he recorded three total tackles and 2.5 sacks.
"We kept great leverage on the football all day," said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. "I thought they played great leverage on the ball all day, pressured, didn't allow the pocket (for) the quarterback to step up, pushed it and kept him confined. Didn't let him step up and scramble and keep plays alive with his feet, which he did a tremendous job of. Was very proud of those guys, had tight coverage. And when the ball got out, those throws were contested. Our DB's did a real nice job."
After passing its first test with flying colors, FSU faces perhaps its biggest barometer of the season next weekend as No. 11 Clemson comes to town for an 8 p.m. nationally televised matchup.
"We've still got a lot of things we got to clean up, there's some sloppiness in a lot of areas, but I'm very proud of the progress we're making," Fisher said. "We're heading in the right direction and we just have to get ready to play a very good Clemson team next week."
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