Photo by Stephen M. Dowell
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Christian Ponder looked like the quarterback Florida State fans remembered from a year ago and the Seminoles' revamped defense resembled that of their glory days a decade ago.
Ponder threw for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Willie Haulstead and Florida State's defense recorded its first shutout Saturday in more than two years as the Seminoles defeated Wake Forest 31-0.
"Physically they just had us overmatched," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said after watching the high-scoring Demon Deacons grounded with just 185 yards offense. "More than anything we were just outmatched tonight."
The Seminoles, who led the nation with 13 sacks entering the game, added six more while holding an opponent to fewer than 200 yards offense for the second straight week. Wake Forest's freshman quarterback, Tanner Price, was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter with a possible concussion.
"They were whipping us up front and getting to the quarterback," Grobe said. "Our quarterback hasn't seen those type of guys before."
Florida State (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) led 10-0 when play was halted 42 minutes by the threat of lightning early in the second half.
Ponder, who was off to a slow start this season, completed 24 of 37 passes, exceeding 200 yards for the first time this season. He also ran for a touchdown. He had passed for only 429 yards in Florida State's first three games.
Wake Forest (2-2, 1-1) came into the game averaging 43.7 points, but giving up 43 points a game.
"We made sure that we weren't overconfident," Ponder said, recalling the 47-17 drubbing at Oklahoma two weeks ago. "We did that the second game of the year and it bit us in the butt."
Florida State's last shutout was a 62-0 win over Western Carolina in 2008. The Seminoles' last ACC shutout was a 33-0 win over Virginia in 2006.
The 6-foot-2 Haulstead's first two career touchdowns came on plays covering 10 and 4 yards.
Florida State's final touchdown came on a 23-yard pass from EJ Manuel to freshman Kenny Shaw with 1:04 left in the game.
Florida State rolled up 485 yards offense and limited Wake Forest to 185. Last week the Seminoles held BYU to 191 yards offense in a 34-10 win. Taiwan Easterling caught 6 passes for 112 yards and Jermaine Thomas turned in a season-best 88 yard on 10 carries.
Price passed for 35 yards and rushed for another 16 while his replacement, Ted Stachitas, was 5-for-5 passing for 47 yards while also scrambling for another 16 trying to escape the heavy Florida State rush.
It was coach Jimbo Fisher's first ACC win and an otherwise particularly sweet victory for the Seminoles, who were embarrassed in Wake Forest's previous two visits to Tallahassee, outscoring the Seminoles 42-3.
The Demon Deacons routed Florida State 30-0 in 2006 on their way to an ACC title that year, giving iconic coach Bobby Bowden his first shutout loss at home in 30 years.
And in 2008, Wake Forest kept the Seminoles out of the end zone again in a 12-3 win -- the Demon Deacons' third straight in the series.
But this time it was all Florida State on a sweltering afternoon, the game closely following the script of Florida State's 34-10 win last week over BYU with the Seminoles taking command in the second half.
Ponder ran 6 yards on a keeper to score with 8:34 left in the third quarter. That put the Seminoles up 17-0, and Ponder's second TD throw to Haulstead made it a 24-0 game midway through the fourth quarter.
Haulstead's first touchdown reception 1:38 into the second quarter gave the Seminoles a 7-0 lead and Dustin Hopkins tacked on a 34-yard field goal with 5:28 left in the period to give Florida State its 10-0 halftime lead.
Florida State had threatened to score in the first quarter, but Ponder fumbled at the Wake Forest 4 when he was sacked by the Demon Deacons' Joey Ehrmann.
Florida State has now won two straight over Wake Forest after snapping a three-game losing streak last year with a 41-28 win behind Manuel, who had replaced an injured Ponder.
For the second straight week sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins recorded a pair of sacks for the Seminoles while Wake Forest defensive end Kyle Wilber had a pair of sacks included in his 11 tackles