Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder's breakout season is over, another setback in what has become an increasingly disappointing year for the team.
He separated his right (throwing) shoulder making a tackle after throwing his fourth interception in Saturday night's loss at Clemson, suffering what has been diagnosed as a Grade 3 AC separation, said Randy Oravetz, FSU's director of sports medicine. Ponder expects to have surgery in the next few weeks that's akin to what Oklahoma's Sam Bradford had.
"I'm definitely upset … and I'm definitely frustrated," Ponder said Monday after being re-examined by doctors. "I wish I could be out there. I spent, what, 10 months or whatever since last year getting ready for the season, and to see it go down the drain like this is difficult."
Ponder, a redshirt junior, improved dramatically in his second year as a starter, so much so that he began to garner support for numerous awards, including the Maxwell. He even said he would look at his NFL prospects and possibly declare for the 2010 draft.
"I think things have changed now," he said of the NFL. "We'll see at the end of the season but looks like I'll be back."
For the year, he completed 227 of 330 passes (68.8 percent) for 2,717 yards to go with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's No. 3 in Division I-A in total offense (321.8 yards a game). Beyond his numbers, Ponder, who has his undergraduate degree, exuded a mental and physical toughness that his teammates were slowly emulating.
"He's played as well as anybody I've had," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher said. "That's why I hate it for him because he was playing so well."
Heralded redshirt freshman EJ Manuel will see his first real work Saturday at Wake Forest — almost a must-win game if the Seminoles (4-5) hope to reach the minimum threshold (six wins) for bowl eligibility. FSU has appeared in 27 straight bowls, the longest current streak.
"I hope EJ does well and goes out and plays extremely well because that's what this team needs, and he has the capability to do it," said Ponder, who admitted he let his frustration get the best of him when he hit Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel. "I need to help him out and be there for him. … My job's changed now, and I've got to help out the guys."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.