TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — EJ Manuel’s family came all the way from Virginia to see him play his first game as Florida State’s undisputed No. 1 quarterback.
He made it worth the trip.
Manuel threw for 252 yards and two touchdowns and backup quarterback Clint Trickett threw a touchdown pass on his first college play as No. 6 Florida State beat Louisiana-Monroe 34-0 Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
“The first few drives I had some jitters,” admitted Manuel, who completed 22 of 34 passes despite missing a handful of open receivers during the course of the game.
Manuel said earlier in the week that he knew he’d be nervous with his parents, grandmother and the family dog all coming from his Virginia home for the season opener.
“It will be definitely be something I work on this week,” he said about calming down before next week’s visit by Charleston Southern.
Although Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was sympathetic with his quarterback’s butterflies, he was upset about Manuel being intercepted in the ULM end zone in the first half when he threw into double coverage.
“He just thought he could juice it in there,” Fisher said. “He’s got to learn from that.”
ULM coach Todd Berry, however, was impressed with the Seminoles.
“When you’re an elite team, you have to show that you’re an elite team early in the season,” Berry said. “That’s really significant to the way that your team performs the rest of the way out. And they certainly came out and played a very clean game.”
ULM (0-1) got to Florida State’s 28 — its deepest penetration in the game — in the opening minute of the fourth quarter before quarterback Kolton Browning was dropped for a loss on a fourth-and-1. The Warhawks managed to reach Seminole territory just once in the first half reaching the 44 before having to punt.
“Field position played a huge factor and to their credit they changed field position,” Berry said.
Florida State’s Greg Reid was the main culprit in keeping his team in good field position.
Reid, who led the nation in punt returns as a freshman in 2009, picked up 71 yards on four punt returns.
“I’m the kind of guy that’s always looking to score,” he said.
Florida State (1-0) led 17-0 at halftime and built its advantage to 27-0 before Manuel gave way to Trickett.
Manuel connected with Bert Reed on a 9-yard TD pass to get the Seminoles on the scoreboard in the opening quarter and hit Greg Dent in full stride on a 50-yard scoring play just before the half.
Manuel, who started six games during his freshman and sophomore seasons when Christian Ponder was out with injuries, was replaced by Trickett with 7:03 left and the Seminoles leading 27-0. Trickett, the youngest son of Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, fired a 28-yard touchdown pass to freshman Rashad Greene, on his first collegiate play.
Dustin Hopkins kicked a pair of short field goals and freshman Devonta Freeman added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to account for the other Florida State scoring.
Manuel teamed up with wideout Rodney Smith on a half dozen completions for 78 yards.
And while the passing game worked for the most part, the Seminoles struggled to get a running game established and finished with just 92 yards with Chris Thompson leading the way with 33 yards on a half dozen carries.
ULM struggled all day against Florida State’s defense in the first meeting between the schools. The Warhawks converted on only 5 of 15 third down tries and failed on both fourth down attempts.
“They were basically just beating us,” Berry said.
Junior linebacker Vince Williams led Florida State with seven tackles, including one for a loss, and Brandon Jenkins caught Browning twice in his own backfield on run attempts.
Browning led the Warhawks in rushing with 28 yards on 11 carries. He managed to complete 11 of 19 passes for 85 yards.
ULM has been outscored 168-10 since the start of last season in losses to Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and now Florida State. Reed’s touchdown to start the scoring followed an acrobatic 17-yard catch by Kenny Shaw, who managed to keep one foot in while falling out of bounds at the ULM six.
Florida State is now 9-1 over the years against teams presently in the Sun Belt Conference.