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Colleges

Noles, Yellow Jackets Fight For Survival

The Tallahassee Democrat
Published:   |   Updated: May 18, 2013 at 08:35 PM
TALLAHASSEE -

It's unlike anything else in American sports. Except for maybe no-holds-barred martial arts.

Football in itself is a violent endeavor, but when the ball happens to come loose during the course of a game and falls to the turf, the ensuing fight for possession turns into a fight for survival.

"It's pretty dirty," Florida state defensive tackle Budd Thacker said. "You have people grabbing everything they can.

"Not just the football."

Today in Atlanta, the 6-1 Seminoles battle 6-2 Georgia Tech in a crucial ACC showdown. Coming into the game, the Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack is leading the conference in rushing yardage. It is also leading the conference, and is second in the entire country, in fumbles.

Through eight games, Georgia Tech has put it on the ground an incredible 26 times. Only Army and Michigan, at 27 each, have coughed it up more. And only Army, with 17, has lost more fumbles than the Yellow Jackets' 14.

So there will likely be a few dog-piles in today's game, with players from both squads doing whatever it takes to try to wrestle the fumble away.

Whatever it takes.

"Clawing, scratching, spitting, 'yo mama,' 'you ain't this,' I mean it gets kind of violent down there," FSU linebacker Dekoda Watson said. "And the audience doesn't see all that.

"Once we get up, they just think everything is fine. And I'm wiping my face off trying to get the spit and stuff off."

Watson, who had his ribs broken in a fumble pile in high school, said he is willing to do a lot of things to try to corral a fumble. But he has his limits.

"I can't spit on nobody," he said. "That's one thing I do not do. I talk. I talk as much as I can, but I don't want to be talking and have spit drop into my mouth."

A very logical concern.

And not one many people outside the fumble pile have to think about. But for people inside a fumble pile, well, it turns out they have to worry about almost everything.

"You might get a guy scratching you inside the face mask, pulling your throat, putting his hand in your nose," FSU defensive tackle Justin Mincey said. "It's a fight. Point blank - it's a fight."

A fight that, in the end, always has a winner.

Because when the pinching, ripping, scratching, clawing and clutching stop, when the bodies are finally cleared away, the referee is going to point in one direction or the other.

"It's horrible, man," Thacker said. "But it's all about the football ... The bottom line is you might be a little banged up when you come out of the pile, but as long as we've got the football, who cares?"

AT STAKE
Florida State is tied with Maryland for first in the ACC's Atlantic Division. The Seminoles have four consecutive wins, including last week's 30-20 victory over Virginia Tech, and would match last season's victory total with a win today in Atlanta.

KEEP AN EYE ON
Florida State - LB Toddrick Verdell. Georgia Tech leads the league in rushing yards, which means the ever-improving Verdell will be looking to fill the gaps and make stops.
Georgia Tech - QB Josh Nesbitt. He's a runner more than a thrower, and he can be tough to bring down. This season, he has rushed for 490 yards and six touchdowns.

KEY MATCHUP
Georgia Tech is ninth in the nation, averaging almost 237 yards rushing per game under first-year coach Paul Johnson's wishbone attack. Slowing the Yellow Jackets' ground game is a concern for FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "The hard thing at practice this week is trying to get the scout squad to give us a good impersonation of the wishbone offense," Bowden said. "It's hard to do. They can't duplicate the way Georgia Tech runs it."

KEY STAT
Bobby Bowden is 12-0 against Georgia Tech as Florida State's coach, but the teams haven't played since 2003.

PREDICTION
Florida State 27, Georgia Tech 20

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