Florida State’s running game had been an afterthought in recent years, but its efficiency this season is a big reason why the Seminoles are tied atop the ACC.
They may have to rely on running the ball even more this weekend.
The 20th-ranked Seminoles look to keep pace in the Atlantic Division when they host Boston College on Saturday without five of their wide receivers.
Coach Bobby Bowden announced Friday that receivers Taiwan Easterling, Bert Reed, Corey Surrency, Cameron Wade and Richard Goodman will be suspended for this game for their involvement in a campus fight Wednesday.
Florida State (7-2, 4-2) is tied with Wake Forest for first place in the division and is hoping its strong rushing attack will carry the Seminoles to their first ACC title game since 2005.
They haven’t finished a season averaging 200 rushing yards since 1995 and ran for 122.1 yards per game over the previous five years - ninth in the conference. But it’s been a different story in 2008, as Florida State is averaging 205.2 rushing yards, second-most in the ACC.
“It’s amazed me that we’ve been able to run the numbers we have,” Bowden said. “It’s amazed me. But I sure hope we keep it up because it’s probably a very big key on that offense, no doubt about it.”
The Seminoles rushed for 266 yards - their highest total in four weeks and fourth time this season they’ve rushed for more than 200 yards - in last Saturday’s 41-27 win over Clemson.
Florida State fell behind by at least 10 points for the fourth straight game, but rallied to win for the third time during that stretch.
“You always wonder what we’re going to do. Are we going fold or are we going to come back like we have all year?” Bowden said. “This team has already set its personality on that thing.”
Jermaine Thomas led the Seminoles with 94 yards on 11 carries while Antone Smith rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers. Smith leads the team with 632 yards and 13 rushing TDs after having 11 touchdowns over his previous three seasons.
Florida State, however, might have trouble running the ball against Boston College (6-3, 2-3), which has held opponents to 101.8 rushing yards - fewest in the ACC.
The Eagles avoided a third straight loss last Saturday with a 17-0 win over Notre Dame. Boston College had given up 72 points in the previous two games, but had four interceptions and held the Irish to 66 rushing yards.
“Defensively I can’t say enough about (defensive coordinator) Frank (Spaziani) and the staff and what they did today,” coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. “That was a great defensive effort. We were really struggling offensively and our defense did a great job for us.”
In the last four games, the Eagles have returned an interception, a fumble and two punts for touchdowns. They are among the nation’s leaders with 18 interceptions.
“We come out there every time and our goal is to get a touchdown and a lot of defenses don’t have that as their goal,” linebacker Mark Herzlich said. “Their goal is to get the ball back to the offense. We take it one step further.”
Florida State is the second ranked opponent Boston College will face this season. The Eagles beat then-No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-23 on Oct. 18 for their seventh win in nine games against Top 25 opponents.
Florida State has won four of the six all-time meetings against Boston College, including two of three at home. The Seminoles won 27-17 on the road last year.
“We have a lot of momentum going,” Florida State defensive end Everette Brown said. “We had a great week last week against Clemson, bouncing back (from) the loss (to) Georgia Tech. We’re going to carry that momentum right into Boston College because now everything counts. It’s going to be very important that we come out and play our best game.”