WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- Florida State kept its bowl hopes alive with a 41-28 win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon.
Despite losing Christian Ponder, the top quarterback in the ACC, to an injury Florida State's offense didn't miss a step with EJ Manuel at the helm. In his first ever start, the redshirt freshman completed 15-20 attempts for 220 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
While taking over the offense for the first time had the potential to cause excess anxiety for Manuel, the Virginia native kept his poise as if he had been under center all season long.
"Coach Fisher puts so much pressure on us in practice to perform and be excellent that the game is really easy," Manuel said. "It becomes second nature. So I felt like today really was a glorified practice."
Head coach Bobby Bowden noticed how collected his young quarterback was too.
"He did everything nice," Bowden said. "Everything like you would hope. You still never know the answer, though, until they get into a contest. And I thought from the very first play on, he showed a lot of poise. He showed he was ready for a ball game."
Rick Trickett's offensive line was fantastic all day long providing ample time for Manuel to throw in the pocket in addition to opening holes for the running game. Jermaine Thomas continued to run well amassing 149 yards and rushing for a touchdown.
Thomas, who has now run for over 100 yards in his last three consecutive games, felt that he was getting in a rhythm with each carry.
"I was in a good rhythm because they were giving it to me back to back," Thomas said. "Once you get it back to back, you start getting comfortable out there and start reading the defense a little better."
True freshman playmaker Greg Reid got in on the scoring action with a 68-yard punt return at the end of the first half.
Defensively, cornerback Ochuko Jenije denied the Demon Deacons a scoring opportunity as he picked off a Riley Skinner pass in the end zone for a touchback.
With the win, Florida State improves to 5-5 on the season needing only one win against either Marlyand or Florida to become bowl eligible.
For linebacker Nigel Bradham, who led the team with nine tackles on the day, earning a bowl bid is of the utmost importance.
"That's really important," Bradham said. We've been talking about it. We can't be the team that doesn't go to a bowl game in, what, 28 years? We don't want to be remembered as the team that didn't go to a bowl game."