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December 27, 2008ORLANDO, FL -- Florida State benefited from two fumble returns for touchdowns on their way to their ninth victory in the form of a 42-13 win over Wisconsin in front 52,692 at the Champs Sports Bowl.
While Florida State's defense did allow 201 yards rushing, they managed to come up with big plays at the right times to come away with the win.
With just over 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter, Neefy Moffet deflected a lateral pass and senior middle linebacker Derek Nicholson scooped it up and returned it 75-yards for the opening score of the game.
It was a lead the Seminoles would never surrender.
"The game tonight, that was a team victory," head coach Bobby Bowden said. "They were dominating us in the first half. They were one of the hardest hitting teams in the first half especially and our kids were catching it instead of delivering. Then in the second half, we began to deliver some shots."
While the offense continued to struggle early, senior punter/kicker and Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano put forward a fantastic individual effort in pinning the Badgers inside the five yard line on three occasions. For his performance, Gano would earn the Champs Sports Bowl MVP.
"This guy right here (Graham Gano) kept us in there," Bowden said. "A punt out on the one, a punt out on the two, a punt out on the three. He kept us in there in the first half."
Gano, who was also responsible for collecting the turf for the sod game distinction was pleased overall with his efforts.
"I can't ever remember a punting performance like that," Gano said. "This was probably my best performance punting. It really has a lot to do with the guys in front of me, Zack (Aronson) snapped the ball well, and I didn't have any pressure on the punts. They did really well."
After getting the ball back with less than a minute to go in the half, the Florida State offense marched down to the Badger 15-yard line. Christian Ponder and Greg Carr hooked up for the most exciting play of the game when Carr made a spectacular one-handed grab in the corner of the end zone.
In the second half, Dekoda Watson collected the other Seminole defensive touchdown when Everette Brown forced a fumble that Watson brought back 51 yards for the score.
The Seminoles held a distinct advantage in time of possession controlling the ball for just over 35 minutes, a distinction that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher desires from his offense.
Senior Antone Smith and freshman Ty Jones both ran for touchdowns on the ground as the Seminoles amassed 134 yards rushing.
With the season drawing to a close, Florida State can look back on a nine win season as something to build on for the future.
"It gets everyone feeling good," Bowden said. "The fact that we won - I think our defense saw enough to be encouraged with for next year. I think our offense saw enough to be encouraged next year. I think we see a quarterback that can take us back to glory-land. I think it's encouraging going into spring training with a win - as a winner. We are looking forward to next season because we have a lot of them coming back."