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Four Downs: Terry’s return, a look at the FSU record books

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Terry’s key return from injury, Travis moving up the record books, strange ACC cross-division scheduling, and more

Don Juan Moore

1. Terry’s possible comeback from injury key to win “one-on-one battles” against Pittsburgh

After a lackluster performance from the wide receivers in a 48-16 loss to Louisville, Florida State (2-4, 1-4 ACC) might be getting a major boost Saturday against Pittsburgh (3-4, 2-4 ACC) to their offensive lineup.

Redshirt junior wideout Tamorrion Terry could be returning to the offense after suffering a knee injury that kept him out the past few games. Terry remains questionable for Saturday, but has practiced each day this week. At the time of his surgery to his left knee, it was expected for Terry to be out just a few weeks.

Already one of the best deep threats in FSU football history, Terry demands heavy attention from any opposing defense whether he is playing at full strength or not.

Facing a traditional defensive scheme under Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi, coupled with the return of Terry, could prove to be a useful combination for Florida State. Head coach Mike Norvell as well as offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham both made a point to mention how important one-on-one matchups could be Saturday.

When asked how the possible return of 6-4’ receiver to the lineup, and how that could affect play-calling, Dillingham went out of his way to explain the game-breaking impact Terry provides.

“Obviously a guy who commands a one-on-one. There’s going to be a point in a game, I don’t care what system you’re in, at the end of the day you’re going to have to win one-on-ones,” said Dillingham. “When you have a guy who you feel like can do that on a consistent basis, well systematically and offensively, you can put your entire game plan around, ‘okay, if we have to win one-on-one, we’re gonna make it be that one.’”

Continuing on that thought, Dillingham also further expounded upon how a skill position player like Terry affects how the defense thinks and operates (and Pittsburgh in particular).

“And then the entire game, in order to stop you from being successful, the defense knows they have to win that one-on-one. That is what opens everything up. At the end of the day, Terry commands that one-on-one, so that’s what I’m excited about,” said Dillingham.

“You’re gonna be able to look back at the football game and say, ‘okay, did we win the one-on-one battles or not?’ Those one-on-ones in the passing game are those explosive plays. This team [Pittsburgh], more than others, are not just going to sit back there, play zone coverage, and let you pick them apart. They are going to challenge you every snap, give you no easy throws. So, we better be ready to win the one-on-ones.”

2. Travis a near-lock to post greatest rushing season by a quarterback in FSU history

In addition to jump-starting the Florida State offense this season, redshirt sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis has also rapidly approached the single-season rushing yards record for an FSU signal-caller.

Other than occasionally running the quarterback under former Noles head coach Jimbo Fisher, FSU hasn’t ever utilized a passer in the run game like they have in 2020. With 105 carries in 6 games, there hasn’t really ever been a quarterback like Travis in the history of Florida State.

Even after accounting for negative yardage lost from sacks, Travis has rushed for 389 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. He’s gained at least 47 yards rushing in each of the past 5 games, averaging 5.5 yards-per-carry on the year.

The single-season record belongs to the amazing Charlie Ward, who sliced and diced defenses for 504 yards and 6 touchdowns rushing in 1992, the season before he claimed the Heisman Trophy, national title, and numerous other major awards.

Bolstered by a huge 144-yard performance at Miami, quarterback Christian Ponder gained 423 yards and 4 touchdowns rushing in 2008.

Quarterback Chris Rix also had 389 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns on the ground his freshman year in 2001. E.J. Manuel rushed for 310 yards and 4 touchdowns for the ACC Champion 2012 FSU squad.

In 1976, quarterback Jimmy Black accounted for 347 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing in Bobby Bowden’s first season as head coach of Florida State.

An exciting zone-read player, Travis isn’t just going to have the single-season rushing record for Noles quarterbacks, but he has a great chance to break the career mark in 2020 as well. With the group of Ward, Rix, Ponder, and Manuel all sitting around 800 career rushing yards, Travis needs 272 more yards to pass Ward for most all-time in Florida State history from a quarterback.

Heading into Saturday, Travis is 62nd amongst all Seminoles in career rushing yards with 617 in two seasons. Of the 61 players ahead of him in the record books, he ranks behind only running backs Rock Preston (7.9) and Warrick Dunn (6.9) in yards-per-carry with a fantastic career average of 6.6.

3. Shortened regular season highlights already-strange 14-team conference FBS scheduling

Heading into the matchup against Pittsburgh, Florida State is taking on the Panthers for just the second time as ACC conference opponents. Already strange and disjointed, the pandemic-shortened season has highlighted the issues that the 14-team conferences have encountered when it comes to their cross-division teams facing off with regularity.

Take the Seminoles as an example. Seven years have passed since FSU last faced Pittsburgh. When Virginia Tech thumped Florida State in the 2018 season opener, it was six seasons after Rashad Greene caught the game-winner on a Thursday night in Blacksburg.

Heading into their upset over UNC a few weeks ago, Florida State’s ACC schedule included North Carolina just one time in nine seasons. Removing two ACC Championship matchups with Georgia Tech, FSU faced the Yellow Jackets just one time from 2010-2019.

Before FSU traveled to Virginia under former head coach Willie Taggart in 2019, they hadn’t squared off since Jameis Winston was throwing passes back in 2014. Florida State and Duke have played just once in the regular season since the ACC expanded after 2012.

That’s just in the Noles football history. The irregularity extends between any ACC cross-division matchup that isn’t a protected yearly rival, like FSU and Miami.

To be fair, this isn’t just an ACC issue either. The Big Ten and SEC have also faced similar problems. At the beginning of last decade, when every conference except the Big 12 was adding teams, the ACC had no choice financially but to follow suit.

So, the question is- what’s the answer? On his call-in show Monday, Norvell was asked about the current lapse in the conference scheduling.

“For us, I don’t have a whole lot of control over that. You’d obviously like opportunities to see every team in the league. It’s great for the kids to see different teams, different opponents,” said Norvell.

It seems that the ACC, SEC, and other conferences have bit off more than they can chew when it comes to this quandary. There’s a clear gap in the sheer math of it all. Unless conferences went backwards and decreased teams (that’s never going to happen), there may not be a solution.

But it’s a shame to see cross-state conference schools in the Carolinas, or matchups like Georgia-Alabama and LSU-Tennessee occur in the regular season just a couple of times a decade.

And for Florida State in particular, while it hasn’t hindered any significant rivalries or traditions, it’s just plain bizarre to face conference foes this irregularly.

4. Sellers is one the most underappreciated players in Florida State, NCAA history

After enjoying the fantastic work of SodTalk, Seminoles Productions, and FSU Sport Media with yesterday’s SodTalk video of Doug Mannheimer’s interview with Ron Sellers, it leads me to wonder: Is the Florida State wide receiver and all-time great underrated?

The answer is yes.

While by comparison the teams of his era falls short of the accomplishments of the Dynasty period of the 1980’s and 1990’s, Sellers’ three seasons in Tallahassee saw the Noles achieve a whole heck of a lot as well.

Four wins over top 25 teams, and five if you count the incredible 37-37 tie at #2 Alabama in 1967 (as much a win as any tie in college football history). Florida State’s first win over Florida in Gainesville the same year. Three bowl appearances. These were monumental milestones for a program that had just started playing college football less than 20 years before Sellers signed with FSU.

Then, there’s the record books. Despite the passing game within the sport of football evolving several times over since Sellers suited up in the garnet and gold, he still holds numerous FSU records and still sits second in several Important career marks.

Sellers still hold these Florida State records: touchdowns in a single game (5), most points scored in a game (30), catches in a game (16), receiving yards in a game (260), receiving yards in a season (1,496).

A two-time All-American, Sellers is second all-time in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns to Rashad Greene. But it’s important to note, while still an incredible player in his own right, Greene played 21 (yes, 21!) more games than Sellers did. In addition to playing 50 seasons after Sellers, when passing attempts were much higher, Greene nearly doubled up Sellers in career games with Rashad’s 51 to Ron’s 30 (freshmen weren’t eligible, and bowl games didn’t count toward career stats).

It hurts that Florida State doesn’t play Atlantic Division counterpart Wake Forest this season, because I won’t get to write in a Matchup History about Sellers’ 14-catch game for 260 yards and 5 touchdowns on November 23rd, 1968 against the Demon Deacons. Maybe next year.

One aspect that hurts Sellers historically is the lack of film from his playing career. Nowadays, FSU fans can dial up online any important game from the 1980’s to the present. Sellers just missed out on by a little more than a decade from having all of his games, and what must be incredible array of film, documented for Noles fans to view.

A huge figure in FSU football in his own right, fellow 1960’s wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff (whom Sellers is compared to often) gets a huge boost historically from his Hall-of-Fame NFL career with the Oakland Raiders. And he deserves it.

After he signed with AL Davis under the goalpost following an incredible 13 catches for 192 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Gator Bowl versus Oklahoma, Biletnikoff went on to be a co-Super Bowl MVP with the Raiders in 1976 and one of the most well-known pass-catchers of the 1970’s.

One of the most dominant and consistently excellent franchises in pro sports during the that era, the Raiders couldn’t have been a better spot for Biletnikoff to land in 1965. By comparison, Sellers was sent off to Boston to play for a lowly Patriots franchise that was a perennial loser. From 1965 to 1975, the Patriots had just one winning season.

Would Sellers be viewed differently by Seminole fans if he had been drafted by a steady franchise that took advantage of his instead of one of the worst in the league, and had a better NFL career? Considering an entire generation saw Biletnikoff star for the “bad-boy” Raiders, it could have changed how Sellers was remembered if he had been drafted by successful team like Biletnikoff.

To Seminoles fans who saw him play, “Jingle-joints” will always be considered one of the very best players in FSU history. Sellers deserves to be one of the first names mentioned when discussing the greatest players in FSU football history, not just in the top ten or 15.