ORLANDO — Coach Bobby Bowden pointed to one key statistic from the 42-13 Champs Sports Bowl win against Wisconsin to support his assessment of Christian Ponder's development.
Under the third-year sophomore QB, the offense converted nine of 15 third downs.
"Third downs are for the quarterback," Bowden said Saturday night. "The quarterback has to make third down and he was making it time and time again."
For offensive coordinator/QB coach Jimbo Fisher, Ponder's defining third-down play came midway through the third quarter. FSU needed 19 yards to move the chains, and Ponder hit senior WR Greg Carr for 20.
"That was the biggest play of the game," said Fisher, who added that Ponder could have hit a few more but praised his overall consistency and lack of costly mistakes. "As soon as we got that play, you feel on the sideline a confidence."
Senior TB Antone Smith capped the 16-play, 85-yard drive that used 7:43 with a touchdown run for a 21-6 lead.
"Once we opened the door, we didn't stop," Ponder, 20, said. "It definitely feels good to end it on this note and leave a good taste in our mouth going into the offseason. There's still a ton of things I have to improve on, but it feels good to end it on this kind of game."
Jones re-emerges: An ankle injury kept freshman TB Ty Jones on the sideline for much of the season, but the former Middleton High star made the most of his opportunity Saturday. He had four carries for a team-high 55 yards, including his first collegiate touchdown on a 14-yard burst.
He had seven carries for 44 yards entering the bowl.
"Coming into the game, I didn't really know if I was going to play a lot," Jones said. "But I came in and got a couple carries and I'm going to build off of this and take it into next year."
"Jermaine Thomas is a tremendous player but I've always said that Ty Jones is one, too," said Fisher of his two freshmen. "(Saturday) was huge for him to realize the player he can be at the level he can be it at."
The one complaint was on his scoring run. Jones celebrated by holding the ball skyward as he crossed the goal line, drawing a 15-yard penalty for unsportsman-like conduct.
"I was just so excited," he said.
Brown delivers: With his sack early in the fourth quarter, redshirt junior DE Everette Brown finished his season with 13.5, tying Reinard Wilson for third on the single-season list. Brown's 23 career sacks ties him for fifth in FSU history with Andre Wadsworth and Alonzo Jackson.
He continues to say he hasn't made up his mind whether to return. "What decision?" he said, laughing. "I'm going to drive up to North Carolina and enjoy the holidays with my family, something I haven't had the chance to do yet."
He said it: "It was hard getting that sod out; it wasn't easy." — PK/P Graham Gano, the game MVP selected to use scissors to cut out a chunk of the field to bury at FSU's "Sod Cemetery."