TALLAHASSEE — Florida State sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins insisted the problems that were so costly a week ago were more mental than physical and that would change Saturday against BYU.
"It was our attitude," he said. "We were thinking about the Samford game, how good we were. The last game changed our attitude. We bounced back good and how we need to be."
Jenkins and the Seminoles' young defense, which was overwhelmed by Oklahoma in Norman, showed its toughness — mentally and physically — and helped them rebound from a 47-17 loss with a 34-10 win against the Cougars at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"They played lights-out," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I talk about confidence all the time. Well, Oklahoma has some confidence and shook our guys' a little bit. For them to come back and battle and play, (that's) character."
And some skill, too.
The Cougars finished with 191 total yards, far off their season average of 358.5 and their fewest since 156 in a 3-0 loss against Utah on Nov. 22, 2003.
And while this isn't your father's BYU offense with a Jim McMahon or Steve Young or Ty Detmer at quarterback, consider that other than its two drives to end the opening half, it mustered a whopping total of 71 yards on its other 52 plays.
That's against a FSU defense that allowed 487 yards to the Sooners.
Even Division I-AA Samford had 300 yards of offense in the season opener. For those scoring at home, FSU hadn't allowed fewer yards against a I-A opponent since 2006 (Virginia, 183).
"It was big for us," FSU redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "We needed the confidence, but we still have to stay humble."
Fisher said the defense isn't going to make anyone think about Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s. But it did step up when the Seminoles (2-1) most needed it on Saturday.
Down 13-0 after FSU sophomore tailback Chris Thompson's 83-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, the Cougars (1-2) scored on their last two possessions of the half to cut the deficit to 13-10 then received the ball first.
The Seminoles forced a three-and-out.
"That's what we challenged them to do," Fisher said.
FSU senior quarterback Christian Ponder then used his legs and right arm to lead the offense to a touchdown (a 2-yard reception by junior tailback Ty Jones, the former star at Tampa's Middleton High). BYU freshman quarterback Jake Heaps tried to answer, but Dawkins stuffed the Cougars' drive by stopping tailback JJ Di Luigi for a 3-yard loss then sacked Heaps for a 14-yard loss.
"It was kind of a slow game for me up 'til then," Dawkins said. "I felt like I had to make a play."
His sack was one of eight by FSU, its most since nine against Miami in 2005.
Oh yeah. The Cougars hadn't allowed a sack in their games against Washington and Air Force.
The Seminoles followed with another touchdown, a 1-yard run by Ponder in the final minute of the third quarter, to all but put the game out of reach.
"They played really well," Ponder said of his defensive teammates. "They learned from last week as well as the offense (did).
"They're motivated. They're young. But they played really well, and they're going to get better each week."
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347. Check his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/seminoles.