Defense follows Werner's lead
Senior defensive end gets unit to refocus, play closer to its potential
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- By Monday, Bjoern Werner knew.
His sales pitch began in the locker room, just moments after Florida State lost its first game of the season -- and with it, its hopes of a national championship. Werner's concern immediately turned to the future, and he implored his teammates to put the loss behind them with an impassioned locker room speech.
"They're not quitters," Werner said. "They're men."
And yet, for all the talk about moving on throughout last week's practice, Florida State's resolve -- its manhood, as Werner put it -- was tested on the first drive of the game.
A handful of short passes, one long run and a personal-foul penalty helped Boston College move 68 yards on six plays to set up a first-and-goal at the FSU 1. It was eerily reminiscent of the dink-and-dunk drives NC State engineered a week earlier to secure the win.
But this week would be different. Werner made sure of it.
BC's first play was a swing pass to the right side that Werner batted down. The second play was a run up the middle, and Werner and Timmy Jernigan stuffed it with inches to spare. The third play was another run, designed to go through the middle of the line, but Werner stood up his defender, pushing the play laterally. Andre Williams tumbled to the ground, his elbow touching just before the ball crossed the goal line.
On fourth down, Boston College abandoned any hope of punching the ball in on the ground. Instead, Chase Rettig dropped back to pass, and Werner was instantly on top of him, forcing a quick throw that fell incomplete.
"Sometimes you just have to make a couple of big plays to stop them, and we did," Werner said. "Good for us."
Just seven days after Florida State was unable to make those big plays, failing three times to stop NC State on fourth-down plays during a game-winning drive, the Seminoles' defense had all the answers Saturday.
The Werner-led goal-line stand set the tone, and the offense answered with a 99-yard touchdown drive that set the wheels in motion for a Florida State route.
The Eagles' only chance to recover came late in the first half, after an EJ Manuel interception set BC up with a chance to cut the FSU lead to 28-14. A 19-yard completion and an 8-yard run had Boston College on the fringe of the red zone with 34 seconds to play, but again, the Seminoles' defense had an answer.
Rettig's pass was tipped by Nick Waisome, and Lamarcus Joyner snatched the interception, returning it 33 yards and setting up a field goal. The swing in momentum effectively sealed the win for Florida State.
The beauty of it, Joyner said, is that the play happened, in part, because of lessons learned a week ago.
NC State carved up the FSU defense with the short passing game, and Boston College wanted to do the same. Joyner was ready. He read Rettig's eyes from the beginning, and he was in perfect position to make the pick after Waisome's tip.
"Last week was rough," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "It was tough for us all week. But we have so many leaders on this team, we were able to pick ourselves up and make sure we were prepared [against Boston College]."
It wasn't a perfect performance for the defense. BC engineered a few impressive drives, even if points never materialized. Andre Williams became the first opposing running back to top the 100-yard mark against Florida State in more than a year. The pass rush again was largely neutralized, as FSU managed just one sack. The Seminoles have just two sacks in the past two games, despite the opposition throwing 88 times.
Werner knows there is more work to be done, and his message following an easy win wasn't much different than the one he delivered after last weeks' ugly loss: Move on, get better.
"Last week, we came up short. This week, we came up big," Werner said. "But we're going to keep doing the same thing."