Tallahassee, FL - The rain expected at Tuesday’s Florida State practice never made an appearance, but both the offense and defense showed up in a timely fashion as the Seminoles set their sights on Saturday’s ACC Atlantic Division showdown at Maryland.
“Tuesday’s a really hard work day and I thought we had a good, solid day,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said, after the Seminoles wrapped up practice inside Doak Campbell Stadium. “I thought the defense did a really good job on the inside drill, being physical against the run.”
FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, back directing the first-team offense for the second consecutive day after sitting out the Clemson game, threw the ball efficiently and effectively.
“He threw two or three good deep balls (and) stuck some balls in some holes, too,” Fisher said. “EJ (Manuel) had a good day, too.”
Precision passing will be critical against the Terrapins, who lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in turnover margin (+13) and have nabbed 15 interceptions on the season. It is one of the few areas where Maryland (7-3, 4-2 ACC) has statistically distinguished itself from the rest of the conference, and a big reason why Ralph Friedgen’s team controls its own destiny in the division race.
“They don’t turn it over very much and don’t take chances,” Fisher said. “On defense, they play their zones, know where they’re at and do a great job intercepting balls and getting on fumbles. They just do a very good job of playing team football. That’s the thing that stands out about them the most – they play together and they’re playing good team football.”
Florida State (7-3, 5-2) enters the game enjoying its best three-game stretch of passing performances of the season. Ponder and Manuel have combined to complete 56 of 88 attempts (.636) for 670 yards and four touchdowns with just one interception during that run.
Conversely, FSU’s running game is coming off a season-low 97-yard output in the win over Clemson.
Having both the passing and running games working in concert would provide a big lift Saturday (8 p.m., ABC) at Byrd Stadium, but winning the special teams game will be essential. FSU’s special teams units should be riding a high, following Dustin Hopkins’ 55-yard, game-winning field goal against the Tigers and Shawn Powell’s ACC-leading 45.6 average in league play.
The Terrapins are solid in the punting game as well, but also feature the ACC’s top punt returner in Tony Logan, whose 19.4 return average – including two returns for touchdowns – ranks third nationally.
“He can make you miss, he’s very courageous and he’s really fast,” Fisher said, acknowledging Logan’s strengths. “We have to make sure where we’re kicking it, how we’re kicking it and the way we’re covering it.”