Tallahassee, FL - Florida State wrapped up its on-field preparation for Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference road showdown at Virginia Thursday afternoon.
Confident that the Seminoles’ game plan is ready to be executed against the Cavaliers, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher will put the team through a Friday afternoon walk-through before departing for Charlottesville, Va. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 12 noon and will be televised regionally on the ACC Network.
“We’re ready to go,” Fisher said, following Thursday’s workout. “We know what we’ve got to do, we’ve got a good plan, we’ve just got to go up there and execute. It’s going to be a tough environment. They (Virginia) are going to be ready to play and they’ve got a good team. … It’s going to be a good test on the road, that’s for sure.”
The Cavaliers are 2-1 heading into their ACC opener at home, where they have enjoyed their only success in the all-time series against the Seminoles. FSU leads the series 13-2, but both defeats came at Scott Stadium, including the Seminoles’ last trip in 2005.
First-year Virginia coach Mike London is anxious to get the league season started after posting a pair of FCS victories and coming up just short at USC in the season opener.
“What is most important is it’s our conference opener and it is at home,” said London. “It's a chance again to play in front of our home crowd, play to get
better, have a better performance from all three aspects - offense, defense and special teams. …
“I think that's the biggest thing that this team is thinking about now is we have a home game, first conference game, chance to get better and a chance to play a really, really good team. I think they're right outside of the top 25 and very easily a top 20 team.”
Both Fisher and London concede the game may well be decided in the trenches, which has been a strength for both the Seminoles (3-1, 1-0 ACC) and Cavaliers to this point, especially on the defensive front.
“Those guys are big physical guys,” Fisher said of the Virginia defensive front. “They’re big and strong. They can push the pocket … a lot like us in a lot of ways. They push the inside and force it out to the edges.”
Virginia ranks seventh in the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 12.3 points a game and is 19th in total defense (280.3 ypg). Florida State leads the nation in sacks (19), is 12th against the rush (87.2) and 21st in total defense (290.75).
Aside from the Oklahoma game, FSU’s defense has been able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage.
“This team will be a lot more physical,” Fisher said. “It will be nice to be able to say that again – that we controlled the line of scrimmage – but I’m sure they will test us in very way, shape and form.”
London, who was Virginia’s defensive coordinator the last time the two teams met in 2006, has been impressed with what he has seen from the FSU defense on film. He hopes a veteran offensive line, which starts four juniors and a senior, is up for the challenge to protect quarterback Marc Verica.
“Iit's going to be a challenge to provide protection for Marc,” London said. “ Whether that means some out of pocket stuff or whether that means ‐ quick passing game - we've got to find a solution to try to do something to help us because those ends, and the two guys inside, particularly, they get great push up front. …
“I’ll tell you what, they’re playing pretty well when you keep it kind of basic and let your four guys rush, everybody else back there cover, so they’ve been very successful at doing that. We’re going to have to protect the quarterback, find ways to do it, in order for us to move the ball.”
Of course, the same will hold true for the Seminoles when it comes to protecting quarterback Christian Ponder, who enjoyed his best week of practice since suffering a triceps injury in the Oklahoma game. That could bode well for the Seminoles as they try and score their first road win in Fisher’s first season.
The Seminoles will likely be without starting left tackle Andrew Datko for the second consecutive game and will go with Zebrie Sanders and Henry Orelus at the tackle position in what amounts to the only change to the season-long starting lineup.
Fisher walked off the practice field confident that the ‘Noles have are focused and well-prepared for the opportunity ahead.
“They have been,” he said. “Early in the week they were really good. They’re a little tired right now, but I think they’re ready to play. We’ll get some rest here in the next day or so and be ready to go. It has been a hard week of practice.”