Quietly, Florida State is on rise

Overshadowed by USC, 4-0 Seminoles are No. 4 and climbing

ACC Notebook


The Florida State Seminoles annually are blessed with too much talent and swagger to go unnoticed, although this year's edition has, dare we say, quietly ascended to the upper echelon of the NCAA.

Following Saturday's 38-14 manhandling of Syracuse, the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0) rose to No. 4 in the rankings. Nothing unusual there. But in the current college football world, where superstar-laden, two-time defending national champion USC and second-ranked Texas have gobbled up so much national attention, Florida State is enjoying its position - a bit under the radar.

In the meantime, the Seminoles are building a head of steam with a roster that had no shortage of question marks a month ago.

At quarterback, where Florida State lost Wyatt Sexton for the year because of medical reasons, redshirt freshman Drew Weatherford has emerged to throw for 874 yards and seven touchdowns.

On defense, where lineman Clifton Dickson was lost to ineligibility and three starters departed for the NFL, the Seminoles remain the same old Seminoles, only with new stars. They include senior nose guard Brodrick Bunkley, who leads the team with eight tackles for losses, and senior right end Kamerion Wimbley, a first-year starter who leads the team with four sacks.

The Seminoles are ranked sixth in the country against the run (73 yards per game), seventh in total defense (254.5 yards) and ninth in scoring, having allowed 12 points per game.

"I kind of expected it. I think the media and the fans didn't expect this from us, because they didn't see our [preseason] practices," Wimbley said. "We don't want to attract too much attention. We just want to go out and do our jobs."

Florida State's defense set the tone for the season with a 10-7 win over Miami in the season opener. The Seminoles broke a six-game losing streak to the Hurricanes by producing nine sacks, allowing seven first downs and stuffing Miami with a goal-line stand that began with a first-and-goal at the 1.

They beat Boston College, 28-17, with more defense. Senior outside linebacker A.J. Nicholson, a mainstay, picked off two passes and returned one for a touchdown. Boston College drove to the Seminoles' 3-yard line in the closing minutes but couldn't reach the end zone in seven tries.

"Before, we needed to push the car. That [Miami win] started us off on a good foot," said Nicholson, who is tied for third in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 24 solo tackles. "Now, the car is rolling."

At least Duke has QB

It's the middle of another season, and one more time, the Duke Blue Devils (1-4) have precious little to cheer about. They have been outscored 83-7 in two ACC losses. They are last in scoring offense, last in scoring defense. Their average home attendance once again is a league-worst 16,795. And they get to visit Miami on Saturday.

But at least Duke has found a pulse in the personage of quarterback Zack Asack, who, last Saturday, became the first true freshman passer to start in Durham, N.C., since Steve Slayden did so against Army on Sept. 29, 1984.

In a 28-21 loss to Navy, Asack threw a costly interception but completed 12 of 16 passes for 111 yards and added 58 yards and a rushing touchdown. On the season, Asack has completed 23 of 33 attempts (70 percent) for 236 yards and two scores.

Et cetera

Four ACC place-kickers have made at least 90 percent of their field-goal attempts, led by Maryland's Dan Ennis, who has converted all 10 of his attempts. ... Through its first four games, North Carolina is allowing 117 rushing yards per game, which is a 46 percent improvement over last year's 218.4 yards per game. ... Clemson senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is tied with Maryland's Scott Milanovich for third place in ACC history with 11 career 300-yard passing games.


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