Florida State receiver Bert Reed is known as being one of the most loquacious guys on his team, but when it mattered the most on Saturday afternoon, the redshirt junior condensed his message to four simple words:
"Let me get this."
Moments later, Reed took a pitch on an end around and raced 42 yards for a touchdown that erased a fourth-quarter deficit to carry the Seminoles to a hard-fought 24-19 win against Boston College before a season-high announced crowd of 75,301 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Thanks to that play and a staunch defense that offset an error-prone performance from quarterback Christian Ponder, the No. 16 Seminoles (6-1, 4-0 ACC) won their fifth straight, their best run since the beginning of the 2005 season — the last time they won the conference. And they became bowl eligible for the 29th consecutive year, the longest active streak.
But more important for a program trying to re-establish its relevance, the Seminoles pulled out the kind of game they often have lost in recent years.
"We found ways to kick (away games) around here every now and then," first-year coach Jimbo Fisher said.
You remember, the kind where a couple of defensive lapses resulted in big plays, as was the case in the first quarter when junior running back Montel Harris, a former standout at Jacksonville Trinity Christian, ran 72 yards on the first play from scrimmage and on the next series busted a run for 48 yards. But this time, the defense prevented touchdowns and forced Boston College (2-4, 0-3) to settle for field goals.
You remember, the kind where an underdog such as BC, which had beaten the Seminoles the past two meetings and three of the past four, seemed ready to seize the game when it took a 19-17 lead in the fourth quarter on Nate Freese's fourth field goal.
That followed a Ponder fumble, his fourth turnover. Ponder, who busted a bursa sac in his right (throwing) elbow early in the game and played with it swollen, also threw three interceptions, one returned for a touchdown. In all, his errors led to 13 points against a team that had lost its three previous games.
"I feel we wouldn't have won this game in the past," said FSU junior linebacker Nigel Bradham, who had a team-high 10 tackles. "Guys would have gotten down in certain situations."
On the ensuing series, FSU quickly reached the BC 41, but Ponder's screen pass to Reed on first down resulted in the receiver getting leveled by cornerback Donnie Fletcher for a 1-yard loss.
That's when Fisher tried a little trickery.
"We didn't take enough chances, but we knew we had to do something drastic to try to change it and try to get some plays out there and try to get some guys on the edge," he said. "It was the right situation; they'd been doing some things on second down and we thought we got a little pattern there late in the second half, and we thought it was time to make it and luckily we did."
Ponder faked an option run right and flipped it to Reed, who was coming across to the left. Redshirt junior receiver Taiwan Easterling knocked Fletcher out of the way, then junior tailback Jermaine Thomas added a key block that gave Reed an opening.
"I just wanted that play bad," he said.
"He took a shot (the play before)," Ponder added, "and for him to come back and bounce right back on the next play and go for a big touchdown was huge. He really stepped up for me personally. He saved my butt. … I didn't really give us a chance at all to win and the defense played really well and the guys around me played really well and we were able to pull it out. That just proves the character that we have on this team."
The defense, which gave up 266 total yards (191 rushing by Harris) and sacked freshman Chase Rettig four times and limited him to 9-of-24 passing, forced the Eagles to punt on their ensuing possession. Then FSU's rushing attack, held to 41 yards through three quarters, ran out the final 8:04 for the win.
"It wasn't pretty," Fisher said. "Like I've said before, we have not arrived. We have a long way to go as a football team, and we have a lot of mistakes we have to get ironed out. But I did see a football team that would compete, that stayed together, that didn't panic and made enough plays to win a game. Sometimes great seasons are made on games that you can scratch, claw and fight and find a way a way to pull one out."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.