TALLAHASSEE — For the Florida State Seminoles, Saturday's game against Samford was all about a new day.
Funny how it ended up looking a lot like the old days.
The good old days.
The Seminoles showed their fans and their future opponents in and out of the ACC that they had adopted the relentlessness of their neophyte coach, Jimbo Fisher, had a healthy quarterback worthy of award hype, a dynamic game-changer on special teams and a young defense brimming with a pride and passion as they routed the Bulldogs, 59-6.
Okay, Samford is a Division I-AA program which has never beaten a I-A team — nowhere near the ilk of next weekend's opponent, the seventh-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. But don't try to suggest to Fisher, who successfully navigated his first real steps in the shadow of Bobby Bowden, that he should take little from the predictable outcome against his (and Bowden's) alma mater.
"You can downplay that all you want," he said. "Samford's a very-well coached football team; they're a good football team. But anytime you play a football game and you make plays on a Saturday afternoon or a Saturday evening, it means something."
And the No. 20-ranked Seminoles, looking to rediscover the winning ways that dominated the national landscape from 1987-2000, sure made plays in every phase of the game.
• Redshirt senior quarterback Christian Ponder, who missed the final four games of a breakout season in 2009 when he injured his right (throwing) shoulder and needed surgery, was coolly efficient and productive. He completed 12 of 14 passes for 167 yards and four touchdowns with one interception (on a tipped pass) in just one half.
"I definitely was comfortable," said Ponder, whom the school is actively promoting for Heisman Trophy consideration. "I thought I was seeing everything really well and the game was slowing down for me. It was kind of just a relief getting back out there after talking about it for nine months … and kind of earn that confidence back."
• Sophomore Greg Reid, starting for the first time at cornerback, had four tackles and broke up a potential touchdown pass when he perfectly timed an acrobatic jump. He then dazzled the crowd with a 74-yard punt return for a score that highlighted a five-touchdown second quarter.
• Then there was the rebuilt and schematically revamped defense, which was one of the nation's most porous a year ago. It limited the Bulldogs to a pair of field goals, came up with four sacks and forced one turnover.
"It says a lot," said sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins, who made his first start. "It says we're here to play this year."
"We went out there and showed we should be the first overall defense in the nation," said redshirt freshman defensive tackle Demonte McAllister, the former Alonso High star who had 1.5 sacks. "We came out hitting heads, popping everywhere. There was no doubt we prepared for this."
Even with the starters watching from the bench, the FSU defense stopped the visitors at the goal line in the final seconds, drawing loud cheers from the fans who remained from a small crowd announced at 68,438 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"It's what we talk about; it's pride," Fisher said. "You have toughness. You have effort. You have discipline. Then it gets down to pride. When we were comfortably ahead in the ballgame and we had a bunch of young guys on the field and if you instill it in them from Day 1, that's the only thing they know. We're going to play one way and only one way — we're going to play with a lot of effort, with a lot of intensity and passion and that's what they did."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.