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SFN engaged with FSU site, Plant the Spear to help preview tonightâ€™s big match-up. The following are answers to questions we asked of PTS; you can click here to see the answers we provided to their questions. Additionally, you can click here for some more pregame analysis from Jigawatts and also can click here for the type of bigger picture framing that you have come to expect from SFN. As always, our message forums are blitzed with gameday talk and articles from around the internet.
SFN: NC State struggles mightily with mobile quarterbacks. I haven’t seen much of Florida State this year…but, I think back to last year and think of Christian Ponder as next to unstoppable – a great balance of running and passing. This year he has not delivered, and particularly (statistically) his running game doesn’t seem to be in sync. What is going on here with Ponder? What can we expect to see on Thursday night? Particularly in light of his recent injury?
PTS: Statistically speaking, Ponder’s rushing numbers are down because of the increased success of the overall running game. When you have a Chris Thompson averaging right at 64 rushing yards a game, a Jermaine Thomas averaging right at 62 yards a game, and then a Ty Jones averaging over 50 yards a game, designed runs for Christian Ponder are not of the utmost importance. As a team FSU is averaging nearly 215 yards a game which is good for 19th best in the country, and it has became our bread and butter. Post- surgery, Ponder’s shoulder is fine, but he has been dealing with other issues it seems, and versus Christian Ponder we all could see something wasn’t right with him. His Bursa sac ruptured and he wasn’t able to get much on any pass he threw. He is now throwing with a sleeve, and from all I hear out of practice he is good to go.
SFN: Our offensive line has generally been able to ‘get by’ in support of our rushing attack…but, we are not successful in just blowing people off the ball and opening holes if our passing game is not clicking. What are the strengths of the Seminole defense?
PTS: The strength this year, surprisingly, has been the defensive line. They have been re-energized with a new scheme and a new workout regime, so they are stronger and faster than they ever have been before. We lead the country in sacks with 30 and that is 5 more than the next best teams, Arizona, Miami, and Fresno St. It doesn’t just stop there, though, with the defensive line. We are also 5th in the country in tackles for loss, averaging 8 a game and that is a marked improvement. I have, actually, been pleasantly surprised the play of our really young secondary, Mike Harris and Lamarcus Joyner have really came on and are improving weekly.
SFN: I expect a close game that might down to special teams…which, doesn’t bode well for the Wolfpack. How strong is your kicker? What is his general range on field goals? Maximum range?
PTS: This game may very well come down to special teams, and I do think FSU has the advantage there. Dustin Hopkins is 9-11 on the year and has an extremely strong leg. It has been rumored that Hopkins has hit a 70 yard FG in practice. Now I cannot confirm or deny that, but just the mention of it shows you the strength of his leg. Beyond the kicking game, the punter Shawn Powell has had a fantastic year. FSU is averaging 40 yards a punt which is good for 15th in the country and this stat is always an overlooked but very important one when considering field position.
SFN: In this entry on our blog we said the following: "NC State and Florida State have a little bit of a different/special feel to our games. I donâ€™t want to call it a â€˜rivalryâ€™ because I recognize that isnâ€™t fair to FSUâ€™s heritage and big games with Miami and Floridaâ€¦but, I do think that the Wolfpackâ€™s history of playing well against the Seminoles for such an extended period of time has bred a little respect for the Wolfpack program and annual match-up against the Noles."
What is your reaction to this? Where would place NC State in priority of importance vs other teams in the league for FSU?
PTS: I think in todays College Football there are fewer and fewer "Friendly" rivalries so some may call NC State- Florida State a rivalry. It was "rivalry-meter" was definitely cranked up a few notches when Chuck Amato was hired at NC State, when we saw him take some of our traditions and implant them in Raleigh. Since he is left, though, it may have died down just a bit. No matter which way you look at it though, it is a very important game for both teams so on Thursday night, we are each other’s biggest rival.