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Wake Forest gives Seminoles fits

TALLAHASSEE - It's not like Florida State's football schedules are printed each year with an asterisk by this game. But it certainly has looked like something bigger is at play when the Seminoles have played Wake Forest in recent years.
/ Source: wfla.com

TALLAHASSEE - It's not like Florida State's football schedules are printed each year with an asterisk by this game. But it certainly has looked like something bigger is at play when the Seminoles have played Wake Forest in recent years.

In the last three games in this series - all Wake Forest victories - four FSU quarterbacks have combined to throw 11 interceptions. The Seminoles have scored a grand total of 24 points in those three games, which includes a humbling 30-0 home loss in 2006 and last year's 12-3 defeat in Tallahassee.

In all three games, Wake Forest's defense has given FSU's quarterbacks fits. That same scheme figures to create challenges Saturday for first-time Seminoles starter E.J. Manuel.

"Very seldom do I see a defense that plays like they do," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "It's not a drastic thing, but it's enough to where you better know what you are doing."

And that has been a problem for FSU quarterbacks the last three years in this series.

In 2006, Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford combined to complete nine of 28 passes with four interceptions (two each) in the loss that ended an 18-season streak of FSU avoiding a shutout.

In 2007, Lee threw two interceptions - including one late in the game that ended FSU's chance at a victory - in a 24-21 loss.

Last season, Christian Ponder (three interceptions) and D'Vontrey Richardson (two interceptions) took turns giving the ball back to the Demon Deacons.

Manuel, a redshirt freshman who has seen very little playing time this season, gets his shot Saturday. He replaces Ponder, who separated his right (throwing) shoulder against Clemson last weekend.

What Manuel will face against is a defense that isn't exactly vanilla in its approach.

"They mix it up a lot," FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "They change their fronts. They do a good job in their coverages and they play very sound defense. The last few years, they've had some great players like Aaron Curry, (Alphonso) Smith - I think they had four or five guys get drafted.

"The thing is, they play hard and they play tough. Their hands are active. They are where they are supposed to be. They don't give you anything. ... It's not anything you haven't seen before. They just do it so well."

Bowden said the Demon Deacons show a lot of variety on defense.

"They do a lot of lateral movement," he said. "Instead of stunting one gap, they might stunt two gaps. ... They really play it as a team. Those linebackers know where to fill. They are hard to fool."

That approach, Fisher said, puts a lot of pressure on opposing offenses to show patience and keep attacking the field.

"They make you make plays," Fisher said. "And they don't give up the big play. When you do pop one, they are usually in zone coverage and they converge and do a good job making the tackle. They make you execute. When you get a chance to hit one, you have to make it count."