Sept. 7, 2008
Final Stats |
Tallahassee, Fla. -
Trailing by just one touchdown, 7-0, late in the first half, Western Carolina surrendered a trio of scores inside the final 6:54 to allow Florida State to take a commanding advantage into intermission. The Seminoles added four third quarter touchdowns, including three inside the opening 5:15 minutes of the second half, to open the season with a 69-0 victory in front of 73,024 at a rain-soaked Bobby Bowden Field at Doak S. Campbell Stadium.
The loss was Western's third all-time to FSU - and is the biggest margin of defeat all-time in the series.
"I'm totally embarrassed by the performance of our football team," said a disappointed Dennis Wagner in the interview room following the loss. "It is one thing to get beat; it's another to not operate and function properly. We had too many substitution problems with wasted first downs; we had penalties; we were wasting timeouts to get players on the field and that's unacceptable. This football team did not perform to its ability."
He concluded, "Florida State's a heck of a football team - I'm not taking anything away from them - but it should not have been the score that it was."
After concerns during the week preceding the game focused on Tropical Storm Hanna, it was individual storm cells that wreaked havoc on the start of Saturday's game. The teams were chased from the field during pre-game warm-ups for a delay of nearly an hour and a half as thunderstorms, including torrential downpours and lightning, delayed the start until 7:30 pm.
Much like the bolts of lightning that danced all around the stadium initially delaying the start, Florida State struck less than two minutes into the game. Western went three-and-out on its opening possession setting up the score on a punt return. Freshman Blake Cain's boot sailed 44 yards where FSU's Tony Carter raced 68-yards to the end zone and the early lead.
However, before the teams could line up for the ensuing kickoff, a second weather-related delay was put into effect which lasted just under an hour.
Once play resumed, a see-saw, back-and-forth pattern emerged as neither side could manage to scratch the scoreboard. WCU put together one of its better sustained drives of the game with an eight-play, 43 yard drive that stalled at the FSU 37 yard-line and resulted in a punt.
The Seminoles, however, were able to add to their lead midway through the second quarter, capitalizing on a defensive stop of its own. With WCU moving into Seminole territory for the third time in the half offensively, the Catamount offense stalled on fourth and inches at the FSU 44-yard line. As the Florida State defense pinched, Western tried to lob one down the sideline to junior Kyle Garland in one-on-one coverage on the near sideline, but the pass fell incomplete.
Five plays and 56 yards later, FSU's Antone Smith danced around the left edge and plunged into the end zone for the score, pushing the home squad ahead by two touchdowns, 14-0.
Just before intermission, the fast-strike `Nole offense went 41 yards on a swing pass play to make it a three-TD lead for Florida State, 21-0. Then, with the Seminole offense working in its two-minute drill, FSU moved down the field compliments of big plays - including gains of 11, 18 and a 25-yard Christian Ponder QB scamper - Florida State found the maroon-colored pay-dirt for a fourth time in the opening half on a seven-yard pass to Corey Surrency to lead 28-0 at the half.
The Seminoles (1-0) posted a 54-yard pass from Ponder to Greg Carr and a pair of D'Vontrey Richards runs - from 52 and seven yards out, respectively - in the opening 5:15 to blow the game open early in the third quarter.
Red-shirt sophomore Marquel Pittman led Western Carolina with five catches for 89 yards, including an impressive 28-yard, catch-and-run in which he juked past several Seminole defensive backs. Red-shirt freshman Quan Warley rushed a career-best 14 times for 38 yards, while classmate Josh Wright touched the ball five times for 23 yards, all positive plays.
Defensively, senior Abram Scott led the squad with seven solo stops, while freshman Jarmarcus Douglas finished with six tackles, three solos and three assists.
FSU head coach Bobby Bowden - who kept pace with Penn State skipper, Joe Paterno, for the most wins in college football - was pleased with his team's effort.
"Our kids did better than I though we would the first game," said Bowden. "That's the kind of game we needed ... After (our players) got through with their first quarter jitters, they did very will."
Western Carolina returns home next Saturday to host the Liberty Flames at 6:00 pm at E.J. Whitmire Stadium.