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Florida State Winning With Defense For A Change

November 3, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Forget the fumblerooskie and all that offensive chicanery once practiced at Florida State.

The third-ranked Seminoles are winning games now _ can we say this about a Bobby Bowden-coached team? _ with good, old-fashioned defense.

Even on a night when the FSU quarterback threw three interceptions, it didn’t matter. The Seminoles defense didn’t let Georgia Tech get within sight of the end zone Saturday, and even scored a couple of touchdowns itself.

``Our defense has definitely been the main aspect of our team this year,″ Bowden said after a 49-3 rout, ``because so many times our offense has gotten off to a sputtering start, and the defense had saved us.″

The Seminoles (7-0) gave up a field goal on Tech’s first possession, but only because Thai Busby gave the ball away at the FSU 34 with the first of his three interceptions. Tech managed to move to the 18 before Florida State held, and Brad Chambers connected from 35 yards.

That was it. The Yellow Jackets never got any closer to the goalline the rest of the night and finished with only 269 yards. Their quarterback, Joe Hamilton, completed 4-of-11 passes for 30 yards before he left the game with a sore elbow and a psyche that was hurting even worse.

``I feel they are a great defensive team all-around,″ Hamilton said. ``The two ends (Reinard Wilson and Peter Boulware) are in your mind whenever you drop back. You just have to be sharp on every single play.″

In a sign of their amazing depth, it was a backup linebacker, sophomore Lamont Green, who made the biggest play for the Seminoles defense. Florida State was shut out in the first quarter and still trailed 3-0 when Tech moved to the Seminole 39 early in the second period.

On first down, Hamilton attempted to dump a pass to a running back, but Green smelled out the play all the way. He faded into the flats, waited for the ball to come right to him and raced 56 yards with the interception to give Florida State a 7-3 lead.

``I told our team that they would come out with a lot of enthusiasm and we would have to take it away,″ Bowden said. ``We got that play and that put the momentum back in our pocket.″

They might as well have called the game there, but the Seminole defenders weren’t through.

Before the half was over, Boulware raced in to block a punt by Rodney Williams and Shevin Smith fell on the ball in the end zone. It was Florida State’s fifth block of the season and the third touchdown for Smith, who also has scored on an interception return and a fumble return.

``We lost to a lot better speed,″ said Tech coach George O’Leary, whose team dropped to 5-3. ``I thought their speed was much faster than we could block.″

The Seminoles, long known for their offensive prowess, now rank among the top five nationally in defense. It was the third time they have held an opponent without a touchdown, and Bowden is almost ready to anoint this defensive unit as the best he’s ever coached.

``At the end of the season, we’ll see where it is,″ he said. ``But right now, you’d have to say it is comparable.″

Certainly, the Seminoles defense is the main reason they are within one victory of clinching their fifth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title and have a viable chance to beat No. 1 Florida in the Nov. 30 season finale.

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