TALLAHASSEE — For the Florida State Seminoles, the dress rehearsals are over.
Okay. Maybe that's a bit unfair to the Chattanooga Mocs, but the Seminoles didn't exactly have to hit every single mark on Saturday afternoon to roll to a second straight easy win against a Division I-AA lightweight, this time 46-7. They beat Western Carolina 69-0 in the opener.
"Overall, it's pleasing, but it doesn't mean a darn thing because we have not played a I-A school yet," coach Bobby Bowden said.
That changes this coming weekend. FSU (2-0) opens ACC play against Atlantic Division rival, No. 20 Wake Forest, in a primetime, nationally-televised game on ESPN2.
"This Saturday," Bowden said, "we'll have a chance for it to be pleasing or either unpleasant."
Lately against Wake Forest, it has been the latter.
In case any FSU fan has forgotten, the Demon Deacons (2-0) have won the past two in the series. In 2006, they came to Tallahassee and embarrassed the Seminoles, 30-0, a loss that prompted offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden to announce his resignation. Last year, Wake Forest rallied to beat the visiting Seminoles, 24-21, a game that derailed a seemingly improving bunch.
"It's definitely a team we've been looking at this whole summer," redshirt sophomore quarterback Christian Ponder said.
"We've had these first two games and we've done a lot of substitutions, and we tried a lot of different things, but now everybody has their feet wet and it shouldn't be new," added redshirt junior defensive end Everette Brown, who had two sacks on Saturday. "It's time to go out and play Florida State football."
Are they ready to do that in this next game when they will still be missing about 10 key players for their involvement in the academic misconduct scandal?
Hard to say. The Mocs (1-2), who lost their opener at Oklahoma 57-2, aren't the best measuring stick of what the Seminoles will see on Saturday — when defensive tackle Budd Thacker and receiver Preston Parker will be back from suspensions — or, for that matter, on any Saturday the rest of the way.
"I'll be anxious to see how they go forward during the year and how good they are," Chattanooga coach Rodney Allison said. "I think they have some work to do."
Unlike last week in his first college start, Ponder showed no nervousness and started hot. He led FSU to touchdowns on its first three drives (that was 12 straight going back to the Western Carolina game) and finished 13 of 22 for 180 yards and three touchdowns (44- and 39-yard passes to junior Corey Surrency and an 8-yarder to senior running back Antone Smith) before D'Vontrey Richardson took over after the opening series of the second half.
Richardson then showed his dynamic abilities again, running 55 yards for a touchdown — a record for an FSU quarterback — then throwing a 36-yard strike to redshirt freshman receiver Bert Reed to close out the scoring.
It came against I-AA teams, but the Seminoles have a total of five touchdowns of 40 or more yards. They had just four such plays in 2007 and two in 2006.
"When you play good teams, you've got to make some big plays somewhere," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "It's hard to drive the ball up and down the field on good teams. … That can also allow you in time, if people start trying to take them (big plays) away, if you have patience when they're not there, you can control the ball with 5-, 6-, 10-yard plays too, so I think it opens up different avenues."
The young Seminole players believe they can.
"That's probably the best thing that can happen to them is confidence," Bowden said. "Now the best thing that can happen to us is we've got two games to tune up and see if the car will run. Now the car will run. It's, will it run fast enough to play at that next level that we're fixing to get into?"
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347.