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FSU gets back on track, beats up on BYU

Photo by Steve Cannon

Photo by Steve Cannon

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State's Chris Thompson might not be the Seminoles third string tailback much longer.

The 5-8, 185-pound sophomore went 83 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the game Saturday and finished with a career best 123 yards rushing to spark Florida State to a 34-10 win over BYU.

"All I saw was green grass," Thompson said. "The only thing on my mind was touchdown."

Thompson said he'd dreamed he was going to have a big game against the Cougars.

"I haven't shown my speed in a long time," he said. "It felt good."

Florida State's second team tailback, Ty Jones, scored twice and Christian Ponder accounted for two more scores as the Seminoles broke open a close game in the second half.

Starting tailback Jermaine Thomas ran the ball only four times in the first period before giving way to his backups.

"We like to rotate," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We have three quality guys. Three very good players."

Florida State's defense was very good too, especially in the second half when they virtually shut down the visitors.

BYU managed only 39 of its 191 yards in the second half and its quarterbacks were sacked eight times.

"They just dropped back in zone coverage and let their defensive line try and get some pressure," freshman quarterback Jake Heaps said. "They were able to do that."

The Seminoles (2-1) were coming off a 47-17 loss last week at Oklahoma where quarterback Christian Ponder suffered through the worst performance of his career. But Ponder rebounded Saturday and accounted for both of Florida State's scores in a decisive third quarter when the Seminoles opened a 27-10 lead.

BYU (1-2) had scored the final 10 points of the first half to trail just 13-10 at the break. The Cougars lone touchdown came with 14 seconds remaining before halftime when Heaps drilled a 4-yard pass to Cody Hoffman.

"I though we had a real strong chance to make a comeback right at the end of the half," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "They made all the critical plays as the game wore on."

A highly recruited freshman, Heaps replaced Riley Nelson at quarterback on BYU's second offensive series and played nearly all of the rest of the game -- much of it trying to avoid Florida State's defensive pressure.

JJ Di Luigi led BYU with 93 yards rushing while Heaps completed 15 of 31 passes for 114 yards, but was sacked for 52 yards in losses.

Sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins recorded two sacks and tackle Everett Dawkins had a pair of tackles for losses.

Both schools were coming off disappointing losses last week. Florida State was hammered by seventh-ranked Oklahoma while Air Force trampled the Cougars 35-14. BYU has now been outscored 69-24 in its last two games.

Ponder, who had been the beneficiary of a school campaign for the Heisman Trophy at the beginning of the season, struggled in the first half, passing for just 68 yards and overthrowing a wide open receiver in the end zone that resulted in Dustin Hopkins' second field goal of the game.

But Ponder's 4-yard TD pass to Jones and 1-yard sneak in the final seconds of the third quarter vaulted the Seminoles into a 27-10 advantage and Jones tacked on a 9-yard scoring run with 2:23 left in the game to complete the scoring.

"When we establish the run, this offense really clicks," Ponder said. "We were motivated and knew that we had to win this game going into ACC play next week."

Florida State, which is now 4-0 in games against BYU, opens its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule next Saturday at home against Wake Forest.

Jones also enjoyed a big game last year against the Cougars, running for 108 yards and a touchdown in Florida State's 54-28 victory at BYU.

Ponder's favorite target, Bert Reed, caught 9 passes for 89 yards.

Thompson, who finished the game with a career high 123 yards rushing, was untouched on his 83-yard scoring run that gave Florida State a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Jones tacked on 95 more yards to the rushing ledger and Ponder had 50 to go along with 149 yards passing.

"He has the ability to create and scramble which is frustrating if your coverage does hold," Mendenhall said about Ponder. "That's always frustrating to the defense."

Thompson's TD run, Mendenhall said, really stung.

"When the game is close and there is a big play, there is a change of emotion," Mendenhall said.

Despite a 121-6 yardage advantage in the first quarter, Florida State didn't manage to score until Hopkins 26-yard field goal in the final seconds of the quarter gave the Seminoles a 3-0 lead.