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The Daily Tar Heel

Florida State’s football program may be in turmoil after its lousy 2-4 start, but don’t blame QB Christian Ponder.

The junior signal-caller just might be the only reason the Seminoles aren’t in even more trouble.

Ponder has broken through in his second full season behind center, throwing for 1,781 yards and nine touchdowns.

His 297 passing yards per game are good enough to lead the ACC, and ranks 11th best in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision. Ponder also leads the conference in total offense with 317 total yards per game.

That number is better than his nearest competitor in the league (Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner) by more than 25 yards.

In addition to his gaudy yardage totals, he’s put up a 67.7 completion percentage, which is an sizable improvement over his 55.7 completion percentage of a season ago.

Another threat Ponder poses is the ability to be elusive in the pocket and avoid pressure from defensive linemen.

While his scrambling ability hasn’t always translated to big chunks of rushing yardage — Ponder only has 123 rushing yards — opposing defenders know what that extra time to find a receiver can do to a secondary.

“He’s a very good quarterback. He’s able to use his feet to get out of trouble,” UNC safety Deunta Williams said.

“The one thing I like the most is when people are pressuring him, he scrambles, but he scrambles with his eyes down the field.”

But while those statistics are impressive, it’s Ponder’s ball security that vaulted him to the next level as a quarterback.

The Colleyville, Texas, native has thrown just one interception this season, way down from his 13 picks a season ago.

And he arrives in Chapel Hill this Thursday on a roll.

Ponder had the best game of his college career in his last start against Georgia Tech, when he passed for five touchdowns and 359 yards.

On the strength of completing 26 of his 36 passes, he led Florida State to 44 points, but the Seminoles’ defense didn’t provide him with any help.

The Yellow Jackets scored 49 points to turn his prolific performance into a forgettable footnote.

 That’s been the story of the year for Ponder and FSU, and largely why his contributions have been overlooked on the national stage.

While Florida State’s offense has been one of the ACC’s most consistent performers, its defense constantly forgets to show up to games.

The Seminoles are dead last in total defense, and Ponder and the offense have not quite been good enough so far this season to overcome that liability.

Ponder may have a little more trouble picking apart a secondary than usual, however, when he meets a UNC defense that is the stingiest in the conference.

The Tar Heels have allowed just 125 passing yards per game, and stringing the ball past the arms of Deunta Williams, Kendric Burney and Co. will be no easy task.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking Ponder won’t make a few dents in those impressive defensive numbers for UNC.

His worst passing output of the season was 195 yards against BYU, and he has thrown for more than 300 yards in three of FSU’s six games.

“You’ve got to stay on your coverage until the whistle blows and pretty much a little bit after that,” cornerback Kendric Burney said. “We know he’s going to be the best quarterback we’ve faced all year, and probably the best since I’ve been here.”

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