Christian Ponder’s interception late in the fourth quarter against Clemson effectively ended the game, down nine points with 3:34 left to play.
Little did he know, it also ended his season.
On the return, he made a jarring collision to tackle cornerback DeAndre McDaniel, and the hit popped his shoulder in-and-out of place. He was sidelined for the balance of the game, and Florida State announced that he would be out for this week’s game against Wake Forest.
On Monday, however, head coach Bobby Bowden informed reporters that the injury was even more damaging than previously expected, and Ponder will undergo season-ending surgery within the next two weeks.
In his stead, redshirt freshman E.J. Manuel will get the nod for his first career start. Manuel was the prize of the 2007 recruiting class, the first under offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. He was a four-star out of Virginia Beach’s Bayside High School, throwing for 7,400 yards and 68 touchdowns.
But he will have a tall order ahead of him. The Seminoles need to win two of their last three games to gain bowl eligibility, and losing this weekend means they will need to beat no. 1 Florida in the season finale. If not, they will be out of the postseason for the first time since 1976.
Ponder is 13-9 as a starter, and anchored the Seminoles who reached nine wins last year for the first time since 2003. He was the ACC’s leading passer coming into the Clemson game, but bested his season total with four picks.
Most of the College Football Sportsbooks had Florida State as underdogs for most of the year. This news is sure to keep the pattern with the Seminoles being underdogs in the rest of their upcoming games including to rival Florida.