TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State’s ground game put its best foot forward in Saturday’s 48-7 win over Duke. A week after losing senior leader Chris Thompson for the season because of a torn ACL, No. 9 Florida State’s running backs regrouped and ran for 261 yards against the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal-leading Blue Devils.
In Thompson’s place, sophomores James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman stepped in to pick up the slack. Much like it did in the second half against Miami, the duo didn’t miss a beat.
“I thought they were good,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I think the only bad thing was Devonta put the ball on the ground at the end. But that [kid] was running it, he had a nice trap down there on a third and 10, he had nice balance, was quick. James was running for powerful third-down runs. I thought they had an outstanding day.”
Lead by Freeman’s 104 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, the Noles ground game dictated the tempo for much of the game.
And while Chris Thompson was out of sight, he was not out of mind.
“He said he didn’t really want to sit by the sideline because if people were coming he can’t get out the way,” James Wilder Jr. joked, referring to Thompson’s crutches. “But he said he watched most of the replays he was still out there coaching he’s our No. 2 coach [out there].
“He’s sitting right behind the O-line where we sit after offense, he’s sitting right where the running backs sit so we always go over there and he’ll just tell us what we need to work on.”
Thompson wasn’t able to contribute on the field, but he was still on the sideline offering vocal support, as he will for the rest of the season. After fighting through a broken back last season and returning strong this year, Thompson is an inspirational team leader. FSU’s entire team took his loss hard. Having him on the sideline is a boost to the Seminoles in more ways than one.
“He’s like another coach, he’s like a coach that been through it lately, been in our position so he knows what it takes and he knows what you have to do to be successful,” Wilder said. “He was on his way to 1,000 yards, and he’s obviously been successful.”
Said Devonta Freeman: “It means a lot. I know every time I look at him I’m just like, ‘Dang man, take advantage of the opportunity.’ Because he didn’t plan that, he didn’t plan that he’d get hurt and be out for the season.
“I just like him being there because it just motivates me, you can’t take any plays off, you can’t take life for granted. You never know what kind of curveball is going to come at you.”
Thompson will have surgery sometime in the coming weeks, then his rehab will begin.
In the meantime, his Florida State teammates are offering their encouragement.
“Every time I do something on the field, I just try to hug him or embrace him, like, ‘This is for you, man,’” Freeman said. “‘God’s with you, just know God’s with you and continue to pray.’”