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Quote:Unit has nine sacks, two INTs for scores in scrimmage
By Jack Corcoran
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER


Mike Ewen, Tallahassee Democrat

FSU defensive back Gerard Ross (11) can't prevent a long pass reception by wide receiver Lorne Sam (18) during Wednesday's morning scrimmage inside of Doak Campbell Stadium.


Florida State coach Bobby Bowden saw some of the old magic in his defense on Thursday.

The unit swarmed, smothered and even outscored the offense in FSU's third scrimmage of the preseason. Brodrick Bunkley and Michael Boulware returned interceptions for touchdowns to lead the defense, which collected nine sacks and allowed only a 27-yard field goal by Xavier Beitia.

"We're getting a lot of people to the ball, playing with a lot of enthusiasm and having a good time," Bowden said. "And I haven't seen that in awhile."

Three years, to be exact.

The Seminoles, who were so dominant on defense during the dynasty years, suffered an enormous drop-off the past two seasons. They allowed 26.1 points per game in 2001. Ten starters return from last year's group, which showed improvement but still surrendered 366 yards per game.

With the season opener at North Carolina eight days away, FSU's defense is the reason Bowden isn't as concerned about his team's flaws. And there are concerns. The first-string offensive line was overpowered by reserves. Quarterback Chris Rix wasn't sharp. Running back Greg Jones isn't all the way back from reconstructive knee surgery. Receivers Chris Davis and Dominic Robinson were among the spectators.

But Bowden's got his defense back.

"I feel much better because of the defense," said Bowden, whose team will hold its final scrimmage of the preseason tonight. "Still have concerns of the OL. But that will come if they can stay healthy and keep improving. They did a better job today of getting the right man. See our defense is doing so much movement and everything. You don't know who to block."

Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley had three sacks. Delivering the push up the middle, tackle Darnell Dockett had two sacks. So did Claudius Osei, who was effective blitzing from the secondary.

Backup quarterback Fabian Walker was sacked twice in the first five plays against the first-team defense. Play No.6 resulted in Bunkley's 43-yard touchdown. Bunkley, who played in eight games along the line as a true freshman last season, made the interception after nose guard Travis Johnson deflected Walker's pass at the line.

"I just went and jumped for it and got it," Bunkley said. "That's it. Simple play. Hopefully, it will turn out like that in a game."

Boulware's 50-yard touchdown - off another deflected pass from Walker - wasn't fancy either. Dockett had the assist.

"We definitely showed a lot of improvement," said Boulware, who is starting for the third straight season at strongside linebacker. "We're starting to play together."

The togetherness was what impressed defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, whose unit continued to stifle the offense in red-zone plays after the scrimmage. The offense scored just one touchdown in 16 plays from at or inside the 10-yard line. A 1-yard plunge from Jones, who had three carries for 12 yards in the scrimmage, was it.

"They may miss a signal, but if we all play in the right defense and (play) hard enough and are accountable to each other, we've got a chance on the play," Andrews said. "That's probably the best that this group is doing right now - they're starting to play together. You see some bonds, some chemistry. Kids depending on each other."

Rix had 110 yards passing. He was 5 for 8.

"I thought our offense did make some improvements," Bowden said. "But our defense did today like it's supposed to do. They did like I hadn't seen it in a couple of years."
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