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Drew Weatherford's return not enough for Florida State Seminoles against Florida Gators

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford finally got back on the field Saturday and not just for the ceremonial stroll to midfield with his fellow seniors.

Weatherford, the former Land O'Lakes standout who had started 33 games for the Seminoles before losing his job to Christian Ponder before the season, hadn't taken a snap since the Chattanooga game on Sept. 13.

Not that playing after such a long layoff is easy.

Not when it's against the Florida Gators and your team is behind 35-9.

"I felt a little rusty early on and started feeling more and more comfortable but it's just a very difficult situation to be down by that much and have to throw the ball a lot," Weather­ford said. "I was happy with the opportunity I got, but it was unfortunate that we couldn't pull it off."

Not even close to doing that. The Gators won easily 45-15, almost duplicating the score of last year's rout of 45-12 in Gainesville, a result that surprised and frustrated the Seminoles (8-4).

But few could have suspected that Weatherford would have played, let alone for much of the second half.

Ponder was struggling and, unbeknownst to out­siders, he bruised his back last week against Maryland and didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Ponder was just 5-of-14 for 60 yards and two interceptions, one of which came on the opening series of the second half that led to Tim Tebow's 23-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy for Florida.

Enter Weatherford, who recently voiced his first public frustration about his lack of playing time when he said the coaches made the wrong decision in demoting him from first to third string.

"I really didn't know if I was going to get an opportunity or not," he said after the game, "but I always try to be ready."

His final stat line wasn't exactly stellar.

Weatherford was 4-of-15 for 61 yards and was sacked three times for a loss of 31 yards, but threw no interceptions and led the Seminoles to their lone touchdown.

He also hooked up with receiver Jarmon Fortson on perhaps FSU's best offensive play of the day, perfectly hitting him in stride down the right sideline for 42 yards.

"He was tremendous. He gave us a lift," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said of Weatherford.

"He definitely deserved to be in there," Ponder added. "I didn't play that great, and he went in there and played pretty well. He gave our team a chance."

Weatherford tied former Virginia star Matt Schaub with 7,502 career passing yards, 15th in ACC history.

And with his first pass, Weather­ford moved ahead of Chris Weinke as the school's all-time leader in attempts. He now has 1,122.

"It was kind of an emotional roller-coaster, honestly," Weather­ford said of the day. "It's unfortunate we didn't win, but it was good to be out there.

"I love playing the game, and it's just fun to get out there and compete."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Drew Weatherford's return not enough for Florida State Seminoles against Florida Gators 11/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 29, 2008 10:46pm]
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