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For coach Bobby Bowden, the game at Brigham Young on Saturday was a return to yesteryear.

In the early 1980s, he routinely took his lightly regarded Florida State teams on the road to play the elite of college football, including Nebraska, Ohio State, LSU and Arizona State. By stunning some, he earned the nickname, "King of the Road," his players earned respect and, together, they planted the seeds for the dynastic run to come.

"We preached that to the kids all week," Bowden said Sunday afternoon, still basking in the afterglow of a 54-28 win against then No. 7-ranked BYU in Provo, Utah. "Would I say this was the same thing? I sure would."

The win propelled FSU (2-1), staggering a bit after a last-minute win against Division I-AA Jacksonville State, back into the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 18 - the same spot it had to start the season.

"Right now, you'd have to say it's looking up," he said. "But there's a lot of football to play."

FSU hosts USF for the first time Saturday before returning to ACC play.

"If you'd gone out there and gotten stomped, you'd say, 'Ya'll aren't gaining ground like you thought you were,''' Bowden said. "If we had gone out there and played it close and lost close, I think that would have been an indication we're getting close.

"We didn't do that. We went out there and won big. Now what does that mean? It probably means we're further along than we thought. We're probably as far along as I could have hoped."

Ponder praise: QB Christian Ponder continues to impress those around him. After the redshirt junior went 21-of-26 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, ran 11 times for 77 yards and a touchdown and committed no turnovers, Bowden said, "I don't see anybody I'd swap him with."

Sympathy: Bowden didn't know until his teleconference that USF senior QBMatt Grothe suffered a season-ending left knee injury Saturday night. "That's a shame," Bowden said. "He's one of the best I've seen. I've been watching him for two years, and I just think he's a great quarterback."

Good sign: Although he missed another extra point (his fourth) and a field goal (a 42-yarder in the final quarter), freshman Dustin Hopkins did hit his six other extra points and two field goals (33 and 35 yards). Perhaps most important, sevenof his ninekickoffs went for touchbacks. He had two in 11 kickoffs in the first two games.

Glimpse at the future: Heralded redshirt freshman QB E.J. Manuel made his debut late, completing 1 of 2 passes for 4 yards and running once for 8.