The Jimbo Fisher Era could not have started any better. FSU was crisp from the opening snap. The execution was decidedly un-Bowden like. FSU's top rated offense from a year ago came out firing, averaging more than 8 yards per snap. Christian Ponder had a ridiculous quarterback rating of 260, completing 12 of 14 passes for 158 yards, and a 4/1 TD/INT ratio en route to a 42-3 halftime lead. The offensive line was excellent, as usual, and Samford almost never had pressure behind the line of scrimmage. The 42 first-half points were the most any FSU team has scored in a half since the Chris Weikle-led Noles against Duke in 2000.
The most encouraging thing for the 'Noles was the absence of the mental lapses seen during Bowden's lost decade. FSU executed without delay of game penalties. Both first team units lacked sloppiness.
Christian Ponder was pleased:
"We played well. We took advantage of the short fields the defense gave us. Still room to go and we need to establish greater rhythm and we need to correct a lot of things. We are happy but not satisfied."
Jimbo Fisher was pleased with the effort:
"We got the jitters out. The kids played hard, all 3 facets (offense, defense, and special teams). I was impressed by the intensity level throughout the whole game. That's our mark. Play 60 minutes of intense football no matter the score."
"Anytime you make plays it means something," Fisher said in his first postgame news conference as the man in charge. "We are going to play one way only and that's with effort and passion."
"From a game management standpoint I was pleased with how we handled things," Fisher said. "We tried to get the freshmen in there. We were very organized."
Meanwhile the focus was on the defense, one of college football's worst in 2009. The first team defense held Samford to less than 100 yards on 36 first-half plays. It was a dominant effort, the kind of performance you expect from a good defense. FSU's new zone scheme was a much different look for the Seminoles, and was a welcome change. It was immediately evident that FSU's defense was coached by competent coaches, something not seen in years past. FSU's quad of talented corners (Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes, Lamarcus Joyner, and Mike Harris) impressed and the angles taken to the football and the assignments played were much better than in recent years. Sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins had at least one sack and potentially more, depending on the official scorer).
Samford refused to punt to All-ACC corner Greg Reid for the first four punts. On the fifth punt, Reid reminded them why they made that decision, returning a punt 73 yards for the touchdown and the 35-0 lead.
Not wanting to risk injury to Ponder or the other offensive starters, Fisher pulled them and inserted the second team. Gator-Bowl MVP E.J. Manuel led that attack to almost 10 yards per play, highlighted by a 57-yard run by Junior running back Ty Jones.
The second-team defense featured six freshmen and played well. Red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Demonte McAllister impressed from his first snap, showing the promise that came with the praise he earned during his recruitment. The second-team defense allowed only five yards per play. True-freshman defensive end Bjoern Werner also impressed.
Good teams dominate bad teams and that is exactly what Florida State did. With the trip to Norman Oklahoma looming, the 'Noles still have much to work on. This team clearly lacks quality depth, but the young players gave FSU fans hope that the Noles might be special in the coming years.