In Jimbo Fisher’s first game as head coach of the Florida State Seminoles, he achieved something even Bobby Bowden could not attest to. Fisher earned a victory in his first game as the head football coach in Tallahassee over the FCS Division 1 Samford Bulldogs Saturday.
A big part of Fisher’s first win was starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who played his first game since suffering a shoulder injury late in the 2009 season against Clemson. Ponder threw for 167 yards and four touchdowns before giving up the reigns to back up E.J. Manuel.
“It was a relief just to get back out there and play,” Ponder said. “There was a little doubt going in about the shoulder. All that went away after the first play.”
The senior quarterback spread the ball all over the field with touchdown passes to three different receivers, including two to running back Lonnie Pryor. Nine total Seminoles receivers caught passes in the season opener. Taiwan Easterling was the leading receiver coming off a season with the ACC champion baseball team.
Fisher was humble after the game, and gave all the credit to Bowden for building FSU’s football program from the ground up. Both coaches played and coached at Samford before finding success in the upper echelon of college football.
“I’m happy I’m here and all that but I mean that man built this university and he’s a tremendous guy,” Fisher said. “People don’t understand what the man meant to me … and how I looked up to him. He’s still my hero.”
It had been reported that Bowden was invited to take part in a pre-game ceremony to honor the legendary head coach. Instead, he decided to decline the offer and watch the game from home. What he saw was the offense rack up 481 yards in their highest scoring game since a 2008 defeat of Western Carolina. The ‘Noles were up 42-3 at halftime on the way to a 59-6 victory.
The bright spot for the Bulldogs was the play of quarterback Dustin Taliaferro, who despite coming under heavy pressure during his time under center, was sacked four times. The junior racked up 174 yards passing on 22 completions. His head coach, Pat Sullivan, knew his team had a slim chance of beating the 20th ranked team in the nation.
“We weren’t going to beat them unless we played perfect and they helped us some,” Sullivan said. “We didn’t match up. They were getting into a buzz saw with Florida State.”
Part of Sullivan’s strategy for beating the Seminoles was avoiding the dangerous return man Greg Reid. The only time the Bulldogs kicked to Reid, he returned the football 74 yards for a touchdown.
“We weren’t going to kick to him,” Sullivan said. “We were just going to be stubborn about it. We only kicked to him one time and he returned it for a touchdown.”
“I’m thinking touchdown every time, once I get the ball in my hands,” Reid said.
Florida State travels to play the No. 7 Oklahoma Sooners in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday.