0

Ponder shines in FSU spring game

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Christian Ponder didn't look any worse for the wear Saturday in his first competition since shoulder surgery in November.

Florida State's grad school quarterback showed little sign of rust from the surgery to repair a shoulder separation, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another to lead the Gold team to a 29-17 victory over the Garnet in Jimbo Fisher's public debut as head coach.

"The arm is good," Ponder said afterward. "I'm not sure it's 100 percent, but so far so good. The power is there. The strength is there."

Ponder rebounded from a sluggish first quarter to hit 16 of 34 passes -- including many long downfield attempts -- for 266 yards in Florida State's annual spring game.

"I missed a couple," conceded Ponder, whose numbers weren't helped by a handful of dropped passes. "I don't know if it was nerves or what."

Fisher, who has been Florida State's offensive coordinator the past three seasons, replaced longtime Seminole coach Bobby Bowden in January.

Unlike Bowden, who often monitored the spring game from the stands, Fisher spent the entire intrasquad contest on the playing field barking at his assistants, players and officials -- his dissatisfaction frequently noticeable.

"We threw the ball down the field too deep too much," Fisher said afterward. "We are nowhere close to where we need to be."

Bert Reed caught 10 passes for 163 yards for the Garnet, including a 70-yard scoring pass from freshman Clint Trickett that pulled the Garnet to within 20-17 with 12:26 left in the game. Ponder's 3-yard touchdown run just seconds earlier gave the Gold a 21-10 lead.

But sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins caught quarterback Will Secord in the end zone for a safety that gave the Garnet a 22-17 lead with 8:35 left and Ponder lofted a 14-yard scoring pass to 6-6 Rodney Smith with 3:58 to put the game away.

The sack was one of three credited to Jenkins, who led the Gold defense with six tackles.

Fisher felt the defense got the better part of the day.

"In the second half, I thought the defense got control and our offense got out of rhythm," he said. "Another thing that jumped out at me was the pass rush got a little better."

But Fisher was happy to have his starting quarterback available for the game.

"He was in his element as far as running the team," the first-year head coach said. "He was in complete control and he hadn't done that in four months."

Ponder's first TD throw was a 5-yard pass to Jarmon Fortson, a score set up by a 69-yard pass to Smith, who finished with 124 yards receiving on three catches.

The first Gold touchdown came on a 7-yard run by Chris Thompson that was countered by Ty Jones's 2-yard touchdown that tied the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter.

Debrale Smiley, a 240-pound sophomore tailback, was the game's leading rusher with 58 yards on just three carries while Thompson added 55 on 10 rushes.

Sophomore EJ Manuel, who quarterbacked the Seminoles following Ponder's injury, did not play Saturday as he heals from a similar offseason operation.

Punter Shawn Powell was one of the stars, punting five times in the first half for an average of 55.6 yards, including one that bounced dead on the two.

School marketing officials estimated the walk-in crowd at 51,300 for Fisher's debut, which included a halftime flag football game featuring a host of former Florida State players and a postgame fireworks show.