TALLAHASSEE — If you were wondering about Florida State senior QB Christian Ponder's surgically repaired right shoulder, you shouldn't be any longer.
Ponder, who missed the last four games of the season after injuring his throwing shoulder while making a tackle in the waning moments against Clemson, showed plenty of power and polish in Saturday's Garnet and Gold Game at Doak Campbell Stadium.
"He threw some deep balls nice," coach Jimbo Fisher said, adding Ponder's arm strength is probably 75 percent. "When he gets in weird angles sometimes, you don't see the same old pop on some of the balls he threw, but he's still pretty clean."
In the game, the culmination of 15 days of spring practice, Ponder went 16-of-34 for 266 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Gold team to a 29-17 victory.
"It felt good; it felt great," he said. "It felt good just to get back out there in a game situation. The arm felt good. I made every throw."
That included a dart to 6-foot-6 sophomore WR Rodney Smith down the right sideline. The ball traveled nearly 50 yards, and Smith caught it in stride for a 69-yard gain that set up a touchdown late in the opening half.
Still, Fisher was even more impressed with Ponder's command of his teammates.
"He was in his element as far as running the team and the little things that went on," Fisher said. "The clock runs down, call timeout. He was in complete control. And he hadn't done that. You've got to remember, he hadn't done that in four months. That's not something I'll worry about all summer. That'll be one of the things I'll sleep well on."
Although the defense allowed some big plays, coach Jimbo Fisher liked what he saw in the second half and how it "recovered" and "created a lot of negative plays." Between the two squads, there were three forced fumbles, one interception (sophomore S Terrance Parks) and 11 sacks (three by sophomore DE Brandon Jenkins). And the game ended on a sack by redshirt freshman DL Demonte McAllister (Alonso High).
"I thought we did all right," said junior LB Nigel Bradham, who had five tackles for the Garnet team. "We're not where we want to be. We're too inconsistent. We'd stop them, stop them, stop them, then give up a big run or a long pass down the field. We've got to be more consistent, which is what Coach Fisher talks to us about. … Once we get that down, we'll be all right."
Coach Jimbo Fisher had challenged the fans to come out en masse — and they did. The announced crowd of 51,300 exceeded expectations and set an unofficial record for a spring game.
"It was great not only for the players to see the support and everybody wanting to watch them play, but I think it was good for the fans, too," he said. "Just having a reunion, getting back and enjoying yourself in a spring weekend and getting a lot of friends and family and tailgate and have fun and remember why you enjoyed Florida State and why a lot of them came here and why they love it."
QB Christian Ponder was named the most valuable offensive player for the spring practice, while sophomore CB Greg Reid earned the defensive honor.
Saturday might have been about the future for FSU, but it also was a celebration of the past with a halftime flag football game featuring former stars including QBs Brad Johnson and Casey Weldon.
The biggest cheers came on a juggling TD catch by WR Peter Warrick from Johnson, a play Warrick punctuated with a little shimmy, and a Johnson INT (yes, he played both ways) and his razzle-dazzle return with several fake laterals before he did lateral for a score.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.