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Florida State Seminoles' running game making significant strides

Although most, if not all, outside observers predicted this year's Florida State offense would put up impressive passing numbers, perhaps even better than last year, coach Jimbo Fisher figured the running game might just take off.

"I liked our backs. I liked our offensive line. I thought we had big, physical receivers," he said, ticking off the ingredients you need to run the ball well.

But Fisher also realized that if the Seminoles ran the ball more often and more effectively, they would control the clock and field position, which could dramatically help a young defense. Remember, last year, the defense allowed 434.6 yards per game, 108th among 120 Division I-A school.

So how's that working for you, Coach?

Well, halfway through the season, the Seminoles' running game, led by TBs Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson and Ty Jones and FB Lonnie Pryor, is averaging 223.5 yards, 74 more than last year and 16th in I-A.

FSU (5-1, 3-0 ACC), is coming off a season-best 298 yards in last week's resounding win at Miami, their fourth straight win, which helped it move up to No. 16 in the writers' poll. It was the fourth straight game FSU has eclipsed 200 yards, a streak folks haven't seen since 1995, when Warrick Dunn was running wild.

"We're running the ball really well right now, and I think we're going to keep doing that until someone stops it," star senior QB Christian Ponder said.

The next one to try will be Boston College on Saturday. Although the Eagles (2-3, 0-2) have lost three in a row, they boast the nation's No. 5 defense against the run, allowing 80.2 yards per game.

"They've got a veteran offensive line … a veteran quarterback to get them in the right plays," Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said of the Seminoles. "Jimbo does a great job scheming things. They've got great receivers, and their backs are just exceptional. So I'm not surprised they're doing it well."

Speaking of stats … : With his 173 yards passing last week, Ponder has 5,845 for his career, moving him past Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward (5,747) for seventh in school history. Thad Busby (5,916) is sixth.

But Ponder is not consumed by that. At least not anymore.

"I kind of was a guy who was into the stats, kind of comparing myself to what everyone else was doing in the country," said Ponder, who is averaging 169.5 yards, down from 301.9 last year. "But this year, it's been different. I could have gotten frustrated and worried about what would happen, but I'm not.

"My goal is to get to the ACC Championship Game and make it to a BCS game and go play down in Miami (in the Orange Bowl). I'd love that opportunity. I think I've grown a lot to where stats aren't that big a deal. … I'm not looking to go out there and throw for 400 yards and 10 touchdowns. I just want to win the game."

Fan support?: The Seminoles haven't exactly been drawing huge crowds this season, although none of the first three home games featured a marquee opponent (I-AA Samford, BYU and Wake Forest). Last year, the first three home games featured Miami, I-AA Jacksonville State and USF. Still, you wouldn't have expected the smallest turnouts since 1992.

"I would hope to see that it's very crowded (on Saturday)," Ponder said. "I know it's a noon game, and I don't know if that attracts a lot of people. But hopefully, it'll be full. It's always a motivating factor for us to see those stands full. It definitely makes the environment and the atmosphere a lot better."

He added he believes the Seminoles' play of late merits more fans.

"After a big game like that (against Miami), we'd hope the fans feel like they need to come out and support us," he said. "I definitely think we deserve it."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347. Follow his coverage at seminoles.tampabay.com.

What a rush!

Florida State's rushing yards per game and Division I-A rank over the past five seasons:

Season Yards Rank

2010 223.5 16

2009 149.5 59

2008 179.1 33

2007 127.5 91

2006 96.5 103

Florida State Seminoles' running game making significant strides 10/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 7:41pm]

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