Tallahassee, FL - The Florida State football team completed its live preparation on Thursday for Saturday’s critical ACC Atlantic Division game at Maryland. The Seminoles (7-3, 5-2), ranked No. 25 in the latest BCS standings, need a victory to keep their ACC Championship hopes alive and can also eliminate the Terrapins (7-3, 4-2) from contention.
A victory over the Terrapins, coupled with an NC State loss to North Carolina, would give the Seminoles their first ACC division title since 2005 and their first six-win league record since 2004.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has continued to hammer home the importance of consistency in preparation, regardless the stakes in the game:
“I just told them, ‘You set the goals. It’s an important game. This is why you come here; this is what you want to play for, but the reason you’ll have success in the game will never change. It’s the same as every other game.’”
Quarterback Christian Ponder, who sat our last week’s win over Clemson to rest his swollen elbow, has come through the week of practice strong. Fisher gave the fifth-year senior high marks for his efforts on the field.
“He threw the deep ball really well,” Fisher said, following Thursday’s practice. “I’ve been really pleased with him. He threw the ball sharp, crisp; his arm was strong.”
The Seminoles, however, won’t be at full strength against the Terrapins for the 8 p.m. kickoff at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium. Wide receiver Willie Haulstead (head) and tailback Jermaine Thomas (knee), who lead the team in receiving and rushing touchdowns, respectively, will not play.
“Everybody’s got bumps and bruises; they’re sore and banged,” Fisher said. “Guys have got to fight through them.”
In both instances, Fisher expects the next man in line to step up. That is what will also happen on the offensive line, where redshirt freshman Henry Orelus will start at right guard, replacing Rhonne Sanderson. Orelus, who has two starts at tackle this season, earned the spot with his performance in practice, ending Sanderson’s two-game stint as a starter.
It will mark the seventh difference offensive line the Seminoles have sent on to the field this season.
“That’s why we practice like we practice, moving them in and out,” said Fisher, whose team has benefitted from cross-training across the offensive line this season. “They’ve done a good job of adapting and doing what they can do to be in this position.”
Not to be overlooked, the Seminoles will face a significant challenge in a battle of dangerous special teams. Maryland has a pair of outstanding return specialists and one of the best punters in league history.
“It’s going to be huge,” Fisher said of the special teams units. “We have to make sure we can win that battle for field position.”