FSU has had their fair amount of challenges this season facing quick and explosive quarterbacks such as Lamar Jackson, Jacoby Brissett, and Deshaun Watson. Coming into those games, they were the biggest threat to FSU, however, the defense did a great job limiting the impact of all three on the ground. Florida State's next challenge is quarterback Greg Ward Jr. of the Houston Cougars.
Ward is a duel threat quarterback who has been the main cog in the Cougars' offense all season long. Through the air, he has thrown for over 2,500 yards, 16 touchdowns and has only had five passes intercepted through 13 games. In addition to his passing capabilities, he is a major asset in the ground game as well, rushing for 1,047 yards and 19 touchdowns, both second in the nation amongst quarterbacks.
Players on the Florida State defense are not hiding the fact that he won't be easy to stop. During a press conference in the days leading to the Peach Bowl, Nile Lawrence-Stample said that Ward is, "probably the fastest quarterback we will have faced," with Jalen Ramsey agreeing, saying, "I don't know if we played a player like that all year."
Florida State has faced a mobile quarterback in nearly every game this season, with Brad Kaaya representing the only true pocket passer the Seminoles have faced this season. After facing so many dual-threat quarterbacks, the question arose of who they have gone up against that is comparable to Ward, Defensive Coordinator Charles Kelly compared Ward to Justin Thomas of Georgia Tech while Lamarcus Brutus and Nile Lawrence-Stample both agreed that Louisville's Lamar Jackson is a fair comparison. The 'Noles did a great job in those games, limiting Thomas to 88 rushing yards while nearly completely shutting down Jackson, who only had 32 rushing yards on 19 attempts.
If the Seminoles can limit Ward's mobility, as they have to many of the mobile quarterbacks they have faced this season, they force him to beat them through the air, something he has not proven he can do consistently as he has only surpassed 275 passing yards in one game this season.
After practice on Tuesday, coach Jimbo Fisher spoke extensively about Ward and his ability.
"It still gets down to getting good player on the ground or stopping him in the passing game or his checks or his game control. It's never easy when you play a great player. We've played similar guys but each guy has their own unique thing that makes him different and until you play them, you really don't know what it is."
In the end, Ward Jr. is just another talented, mobile quarterback that the FSU defense will be tasked with controlling. Ward has gained national attention this year ,leading the Houston Cougars to their first major bowl game since 1984, but this defense may present the biggest challenge that he has encountered this season.