Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Heading into Champs Sports Bowl, Florida State Seminoles quarterback still gunning for first 300-yard passing day


Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder realizes he has a threshold to pass. He has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game. Heck, the Seminoles haven't had a starting quarterback reach that number since former Land O'Lakes standout Drew Weatherford threw for 354 in a win at Boston College on Nov. 3, 2007. "We definitely have to open up the passing game," said Ponder, a redshirt sophomore whose career high is 254 yards in an Oct. 16 win against North Carolina State. He has six passing touchdowns against Division I-A competition this season.

Today wouldn't be a bad time to start. The Seminoles (8-4) meet Wisconsin (7-5) in the Champs Sports Bowl, and most of their top offensive players are underclassmen looking to springboard into next year.

No coach wants a big statistical day from his quarterback in a loss. FSU coach Bobby Bowden said a coach is always looking for that breakout game from him. And though 300 yards may be an arbitrary standard, a byproduct of the fantasy football and video game crazes, to reach that number, a quarterback has to be an efficient and accurate passer.

"When you look at our successful teams," former FSU quarterback Peter Tom Willis said of the program's years as a perennial top 5 team, "we were always good at throwing and catching."

Case in point: Willis had seven games of more than 300 yards during the 1989 season, including 422 in a resounding 41-17 win against Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

Offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Jimbo Fisher, however, said 300 is only a "magical" number depending on the kind of team a coach has, and his team this year has been most effective on the ground.

The Seminoles have run for 2,194 yards, an average of 182.8 yards per game (32nd in Division I-A); that is their highest average since 2002. But they've thrown for 2,230 yards, an average of 185.8 (87th), the lowest mark at FSU since 1984.

"He's been vital for us to move the football," Fisher said of Ponder. "His legs and his athleticism have provided us the stability not to have our young line exploited; you couldn't crowd the line because of his ability to run the option and run the football."

Case in point: Ponder rushed for 144 yards against Miami, highlighted by a 13-yard scramble on third and 11 that kept alive what turned out to be the game-sealing touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. He finished the season with 404 yards and four touchdowns on 110 carries.

"I like what I've seen," Bowden said.

"There was about a six-game stretch in there where he was the key factor," Fisher said, mentioning Ponder's play in key fourth-quarter drives against Miami, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. "Sometimes, it's 'what have you done for me lately,' and two of his last three games (Boston College and Florida), he didn't play as well."

The Seminoles had two of their worst rushing performances in those games (73 and 102 yards, respectively), and they needed to produce in the passing game.

"I wish we would have progressed more in the passing game," Fisher said. "But I say that as a team."

That means the receivers need to run crisper routes, become stronger to separate from defenders and hang on to the ball when it comes their way. The line needs to pass-protect better. The backs and receivers need to block better.

As for Ponder, he realizes he sometimes threw off his back foot or locked onto a receiver or didn't throw the ball when he needed to, perhaps even before the receiver made his break. Those are common pitfalls for a new quarterback, but they should happen far less often as a player gains experience and confidence.

That should lead to bigger statistical days.

Like throwing for 300 yards.

"I think it is something I need," Ponder said. "It would give me and the rest of the receivers and the guys (on offense) a lot more confidence when you're able to put that many yards up. We've kind of struggled throughout the year on that. It's something we have to get right, and once it happens, a ton of things will open up."

Brian Landman can be reached at or (813) 226-3347.

Christian Ponder game by game
OpponentPass TDsRunTDsTotal
Western Carolina196 yd339 yd0235
Wake Forest52027079
N.C. State2541290283
Virginia Tech1591-130146
Georgia Tech1491-191130
Boston College1830201203

Heading into Champs Sports Bowl, Florida State Seminoles quarterback still gunning for first 300-yard passing day 12/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 26, 2008 11:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.