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Stats look good but can mislead

If you glanced at the statistics, you would surely have to be impressed.

The Florida State defense is allowing an average of 248 yards, which is third-stingiest among I-A teams. Even if you were to factor out the games against Division I-AA teams Western Carolina and Chattanooga, the Seminoles would be giving up just 287 yards.

They won a national title in 1999 allowing more (304.6).

Pretty dadgum good, right? Apparently, it depends on who you are.

"I think sometimes you get bogged down looking at numbers, and those numbers can lie to you sometimes," hard-driving defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said.

He has looked beyond the numbers and isn't satisfied. Not even close. He has seen botched plays, such as Russell Wilson's 67-yard touchdown pass to Owen Spencer that put North Carolina State ahead 17-13 in the fourth quarter of last week's game.

Sure, he could point out that several players have been nursing injuries that have limited them in practice. Sure, he could insist that some key players, such as standout LB Dekoda Watson (hamstring) barely played in that 26-17 win in Raleigh.

Factors to be sure. Factors that can lie to you.

"You get to feeling good about what you're doing, and you don't get ready to go out there and defend and do what you've got to do this week," Andrews said. "We were a little guilty of that last week. If you're going to excel at anything, you've got to have great passion. We didn't see great passion. We didn't see great enthusiasm, great intensity."

Andrews knows that has to change as the No. 24-ranked Seminoles (5-1, 2-1 ACC) begin the second half of their schedule, the more daunting half, Saturday against Virginia Tech (5-2, 2-1).

Numbers be darned.

Back in the game: Thanks to Wake Forest's loss last weekend, the Seminoles have renewed hope they can win the ACC's Atlantic Division and reach the Dec. 6 championship game at Raymond James Stadium. They still need to win the rest of their league games and Wake Forest must lose another for FSU to book that trip, but it's suddenly more of a possibility.

"It definitely helps to be in that race," QB Christian Ponder said. "It gives us a lot more motivation to work even harder."

A crowded house? The Seminoles would sure like to see a jam-packed Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon. That's something they didn't see — and it wasn't even close — in their first three games. But since the last one at Doak, they have beaten Colorado, Miami and N.C. State. And the Hokies have a bit more fan appeal than Western Carolina, Chattanooga and, yes, even Wake Forest.

But offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher doesn't want the players to count on a homefield advantage.

"The mentality I want is, 'I don't care if we go play in the parking lot,' " he said. " 'I don't care if we play in California. I don't care if we play in Texas.' We have to learn to play anywhere. And good football teams do that."

Coming full circle: Ponder hasn't forgotten that the first chance he had to play and show his coaches and teammates his potential came against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg last Nov. 10, when Drew Weatherford went out with a concussion early in the second quarter.

"The funny thing was when Drew got hurt, I didn't realize I was going in until our (graduate assistant) started yelling at me, 'Go get warmed up!' " Ponder said.

"It was a great experience. It was fun. I thought I did pretty well up until those late turnovers that ended up costing us the game."

Ponder, who rallied FSU from a 20-6 halftime deficit to take a 21-20 lead, lost a fumble and threw a pair of interceptions that allowed the Hokies to come back and win easily 40-21.

"At the end of the game, I definitely let the environment affect me," said Ponder, who regularly watches a tape of that game and will do so again before Saturday. "But if that didn't happen, I wouldn't be here right now talking to you guys (as the starter)."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Stats look good but can mislead 10/22/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 8:36pm]
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