PROVO -- Christian Ponder, the Florida State quarterback, walked to the locker room through a maze of Seminoles fans who shouted the FSU war chant and did the tomahawk chop. Bobby Bowden did a TV interview and talked about how much his team's 54-28 victory at BYU might mean to his program. Candi Fisher, wife of FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo, stood outside the FSU locker room and said she felt good now, after this.
It had been a stressful week in Tallahassee. FSU (2-1) struggled at home a week ago to beat Jacksonville State, a Division I-AA team. There had been questions about the Seminoles and which direction they were headed. Now, after what FSU did here on Saturday night while dismantling the No. 7 team in the country at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it seems the Seminoles are headed one way and one way only.
"I think we're taking the next step," Ponder said. We're getting closer to where we want to be as a team. It's the first time we played as a whole team together. We're going to use it for the rest of the season and try to win out."
It wasn't supposed to be so easy.
BYU (2-1) was ranked in the top 10, two weeks removed from a victory against a top-five Oklahoma team, and the Cougars were hoping to add a victory against the Seminoles to their BCS resume. The Seminoles, meanwhile, were playing their first road game, and doing so after nearly losing at home to a lower-division opponent.
"The thing that happened against Jax State is the greatest thing that could happen to us," Bowden said. "Because if BYU saw that game, they'll say, 'FSU -- y'all ain't no good.' "
At times at LaVell Edwards Stadium, where BYU had won a school-record 18 consecutive games, Florida State did make it look easy, especially on offense. In the first half alone, the Seminoles compiled 308 yards of total offense and they finished with 512 yards overall.
They scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, and ended the half with a 33-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins that put FSU ahead 30-14 as time expired in the first half. The score, though, might have been telling a bit of a lie.
BYU, too, moved the ball during the first half, when Max Hall completed 13-of-16 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. And like Florida State, the Cougars went the entire first half without punting. But they did suffer two turnovers -- one on a first-quarter fumble after FSU took an early 7-0 lead, and one on a kickoff return in the final minute of the half that led to Hopkins' field goal.
Then, on its first drive of the second half, BYU committed another turnover, its third and costliest. This time, Hall made one of his few mistakes and threw a wayward pass that Greg Reid, a freshman cornerback at FSU, intercepted. He didn't stop running until he crossed the goal line, 63 yards later. That gave FSU a 37-14 lead.
About seven minutes later, FSU increased it to 44-14 when Ponder scored on an acrobatic 6-yard touchdown run. He jumped over a BYU defender and stretched the ball over the goal line near the corner of the end zone.
For FSU, the victory represented the Seminoles' most complete effort of the season and it came in what Ponder described as a must-win game.
"Maybe our boys can start getting some confidence back," Bowden said. "We hadn't had any confidence in 10 years."
In the end, the Seminoles cut a piece of sod out of the turf here to take back with them to Tallahassee. They will return with both that souvenir and the belief that the team that showed up here on Saturday night is, in fact, the real Florida State.