Oct. 11, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Josh Nesbitt’s superb performance for Georgia Tech probably put a little more pressure on Bobby Bowden.
The quarterback ran for three touchdowns and threw for one more to lead the 22nd-ranked Yellow Jackets to a 49-44 win at Florida State on Saturday night, handing the reeling Seminoles their third straight loss amid growing calls for the longtime Seminoles coach to retire at the end of the season.
Florida State (2-4, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) wasted another spectacular performance by Christian Ponder, who completed 26 of 38 passes for a career best 359 yards and five touchdowns.
But it wasn’t enough to keep Florida State from its poorest start since Bowden’s first season here in 1976.
Florida State players came onto the field before the kickoff arm-in-arm in a show of unity with their embattled 79-year-old coach in the middle of the front row.
“There’s been too much about me and the kids kind of made an issue about it Friday night,” Bowden explained. “There was too much ‘to do’ about my welfare.”
Bowden has been in the middle of a weeklong controversy about his coaching future after the chairman of the university’s board of trustees said earlier this week that he should retire at the end of the season.
“I think the critics will keep criticizing,” he said. “The good folks won’t.”
A threatened blackout by protesters who favor Bowden’s departure failed to happen in any noticeable way and the coach was loudly applauded when his name was first voiced on the stadium public address system.
Nesbitt, who ran for a game-high 140 yards, also threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the third quarter that tied the game at 35.
Diminutive Marcus Wright’s 19-yard touchdown run put the Yellow Jackets ahead for good at 42-38 late in the third quarter and Nesbitt iced the outcome with a 22-yard scoring run with 6:29 left in the game three plays after he ripped an apparent fumble recovery away from Florida State’s Nigel Carr.
“The play he made to steal the ball back … was probably the play of the game,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.
Tailback Jonathan Dwyer also ran for two scores for the Yellow Jackets (5-1, 3-1 ACC), who won for the first time in Tallahassee where the Seminoles have now lost five straight to Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
“Our main problem was the wishbone, the kids just couldn’t figure it out,” Bowden said. “We simply couldn’t stop them. Forty four points should’ve won that game.”
At halftime, Florida State had piled up 403 yards offense and 21 first downs behind a near-perfect Ponder, who completed 18 of 21 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles led 35-28 at the break.
“We just had to get a couple of stops [and] we could win the game,” Johnson said. “And I think we did.”
Florida State managed just 156 yards offense in the second half.
Ponder has thrown for 1,781 yards and nine touchdowns, having gone 197 throws since his only pick of the season.
Officials stopped play for 78 minutes because of lightning with 6:50 left in the first quarter and the teams tied 7-7. The quarter ended at 9:59 p.m. with the score tied at 14 and the teams already combining for 308 yards of offense.