Saturday, September 8, 2012
Technical Manuel is thorough
By David M. Hale NoleNation
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After last week's domination of Murray State, EJ Manuel lamented a missed opportunity to pad his stats.
The quarterback had played just the first half, and thanks to a thunderous ground game, he'd managed just one touchdown in the process.
His playing time was even shorter in his second start of the season, but he managed to make the most of it in a 55-0 win over Savannah State.
"It feels good," Manuel said after completing 11 of 13 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns. "Everything was open that we thought would be open, and all the looks we saw in practice, they showed to us in the game."
EJ Manuel has played in just three quarters in two games because the Seminoles have dominated their competition.
With Atlantic Coast Conference play beginning next week, Florida State's first two games haven't given Manuel much chance to test the limits of his offense, but Saturday's thumping wasn't entirely without value.
Manuel said the week of practice leading up to the game offered a good chance to work against his own team's defense -- a far greater obstacle than Savannah State was Saturday -- and his execution once Saturday's game began was nearly flawless.
Manuel threw one pass away in the face of moderate pressure and a second was dropped by receiver Rashad Greene. Aside from that, each ball hit its intended target, including a 61-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith on second play of the game.
"I knew he was excited," Smith said. "As soon as the ball was in the air and I scored, I looked back and saw him running down the field."
Manuel was in total control of the offense, but the task certainly gets tougher this week with Wake Forest upcoming and reigning division champion Clemson looming after that.
But what was most impressive about Manuel's performance, coach Jimbo Fisher said, wasn't so much his final statistics, but how thoroughly he dominated.
"He was going to third and fourth guys on the back side," Fisher said. "He was reading coverage, finding his matchups, finding the zones where his one-on-ones were. I really like where he is, not just in his physical stature and throwing the ball, but his mental understanding of running the offense."
Manuel even managed to connect with freshman Kelvin Benjamin on a perfectly timed fade route for a touchdown, a play the quarterback promised would be used often going forward.
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Still, Manuel's day was done by the time the first quarter had concluded, meaning he'll have just a bit more than three quarters of play under his belt in time for Wake Forest.
"As a competitor you still want to go out there and play, but you understand you've got to get other guys reps and get them ready to go," Manuel said. "I understand what Coach Fisher is doing."
Manuel's backups, Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker, completed 6 of 8 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown after the starters left the game.
It was an easy victory, even if Manuel insists he didn't let off the gas throughout a 35-0 first quarter.
"As a football player, you're told to go out there and play well," Manuel said. "We don't play down to anybody -- whether it's Ohio State or Savannah State."
Wake Forest won't be as simple, but the challenge is one Manuel has been waiting for.
"I'm very excited about the game to get the ACC kicked off and to get to play a tough opponent," Manuel said. "We'll be more than ready."