TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State started the 2012 season with a bang on Saturday night, blowing out the Murray State Racers 69-3.
The game was over, for the most part, in the first two minutes after sophomore receiver Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas graduate Rashad Greene took a punt 47 yards for a touchdown after the Seminoles forced a three-and-out on the Racers’ opening drive.
It was all Florida State from that point on. The Seminoles led 28-3 at halftime, and by the middle of the third quarter redshirt sophomore Clint Trickett came into the game to replace EJ Manuel at quarterback.
Manuel, a fifth-year senior, was 16-of-22 passing for 188 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Manuel’s interception, his first in 128 attempts, was the result of a deflected pass off the hands of Kenny Shaw.
“I got to the sideline and thought about [the streak],” Manuel said. “I told [Kenny] to keep his head up. It’s the same as when I throw a bad pass — he comes and builds me up.”
That was arguably the highlight of the day for Murray State, however, and Shaw later redeemed himself with a 6-yard touchdown reception from Manuel, as well as a 40-yard catch on Clint Trickett’s first drive in the game.
The Seminoles offense rumbled for 606 total yards on Saturday night. A year after featuring a paltry run-game that finished 104th in the nation, Florida State got 2012 off the way it wanted.
Lead by Lonnie Pryor’s three rushing touchdowns, Florida State rushed for 285 yards.
“We’re much further along and I think we have more diversity with our running game,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’ve got different kinds of backs that all bring something different to the table.”
Sophomore James Wilder Jr., who was in for most of the second half, led the Seminoles with 12 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns. His first career 100-yard game was also good for his first game ball.
Debrale Smiley also added two 1-yard touchdown runs for seven rushing touchdowns on the night.
The offensive line, which entered the season as a point of concern for Florida State, passed its first test, albeit against a Football Championship Subdivision team.
“I thought the offensive line did a real nice job, great pass protection all night,” Fisher said. “We kept pounding that ball and pounding that ball and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got a long way to go, but [Saturday night] it was much improved.”
Defensively for Florida State, it was the Bjoern Werner show. The German-born junior defensive end recorded four sacks, five tackles for loss, a forced fumbled and deflected several passes at the line of scrimmage.
“I thought he was very average,” Fisher said in jest. “All that guy does between the white lines, when the light comes on, is just play the game — rush, stop, bat the ball, plays the run; he’s just instinctive and a heck of a football player.”
As he dominated the Murray State offensive line, Werner was actually quite cordial and had conversations with the Murray State players he was beating down after down.
“We were talking on the field. It was funny, we were talking, calling the quarterbacks’ name,” Werner said. “I said, ‘What’s up, man?’ It’s good to play against you.’ ”
The Seminoles defense dominated the Racers, limiting Murray State to 156 yards.
“They are as good as we thought they would be and maybe even better,” Murray State coach Chris Hatcher said. “Their defense is the real deal. They are the best defense I’ve seen in my tenure as a football coach.”
Fisher, always the perfectionist, is far from satisfied with Saturday night’s blowout.
“I thought we played OK. We played better as the game went on, and we got into focus,” he said. “It’s the first game. Hopefully, we’ll improve a lot.
“We need to improve a lot between now and [the beginning of Atlantic Coast Conference play.]”