Countdown To Kickoff

By all appearances, Florida State should be at full strength for Saturday's home showdown against second-ranked Miami. Even FSU coach <b>Bobby Bowden </b>should be feeling better after being plagued by an upset stomach over the weekend. "If we don't get anybody hurt this week, we'll be in pretty good shape," a raspy-voiced Bowden said following the Seminoles' 22-period practice Monday afternoon. Click here for news and quotes from Leon Washington, Lorenzo Booker, Kendyll Pope and much more.

By all appearances, Florida State should be at full strength or mighty close to it for Saturday's home showdown against second-ranked Miami.

Even FSU coach Bobby Bowden should be feeling better after being plagued by an upset stomach over the weekend.

"If we don't get anybody hurt this week, we'll be in pretty good shape," a raspy-voiced Bowden said following the Seminoles' 22-period practice Monday afternoon.

The fifth-ranked Seminoles (5-0) should benefit from the expected return of tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker. Both participated in drills but did not scrimmage.

Washington has missed the past four games after suffering a dislocated right elbow in the season-opener against North Carolina, while Booker re-injured his ankle and suffered a knee sprain in the season's second game against Maryland. The pair has combined for 226 all-purpose yards.

"I think they are ready to play," Bowden said.

"We haven't exposed them to any hitting, but they took a couple shots today. Not scrimmaging, so they haven't been under that yet but at least they are cutting pretty good."

Each player pronounced himself fit following practice. In fact, Washington said he's scheduled to return kickoffs against the Hurricanes -- but not punts -- along with Antonio Cromartie.

Booker, meanwhile, intentionally shed his knee brace and says he doesn't expect to wear one Saturday.

"Every day it (knee) gets stronger," Booker said.

"As long as you are not getting worse, that's all that matter. I am able to cut and do everything that I used to do, as far as making the cuts that I used to make. I was out there running -- that's the main reason I don't wear a brace because I don't want to be thinking about it. I am out here doing fine without it. I had one on and I was thinking about it. I probably won't (wear it Saturday)."

Starting tailback Greg Jones is thankful to see the return of Washington and Booker. The pair should help add diversity to the Seminoles' offensive scheme, especially in the open field and the passing game.

"It's good to see those guys back out here. They are good," Jones said and smiled.

"The past couple of weeks it was just me and Willie (Reid). It's added depth. Instead of me running routes out of the backfield, they can go run them -- they are better at it anyway (smiling). It's good to see them back.."

Linebacker Kendyll Pope, who missed the Duke game after suffering a knee/hamstring injury against Colorado, also returned to practice. Bowden said "Pope looked like his ol' self." A smiling Pope couldn't hide his enthusiasm.

"I feel like it's almost cheating for me to go out for this Miami game full speed because it has been a long time since I've hit somebody -- I knocked a couple of my own defensive partners out today on some blitzes (laughing). My knee feels fine. My hamstring is fine. I am just ready to go on Saturday," Pope said.

Tight end Matt Henshaw also returned to practice after missing the Duke game following minor knee surgery.

Offensive lineman Bobby Meeks, however, remains a question mark. He participated in selected drills but did not any contact. He continues to be slowed by swollen tonsils that make breathing difficult.

"They (tonsils) stay swollen," Meeks said.

"I just have to catch my breath as quick as I can. I want to play but it's basically up to the doctors right now. If I can prove to them I can be in shape by the weekend, I can play."

The Hurricanes, of course, are coming off a major scare against West Virginia, upending the Mountaineers in the final minute at the Orange Bowl last Thursday. While the Seminoles will enter the showdown as a slight favorite, they are not underestimating their southern rivals.

"They played big in the fourth quarter. That's when… just like year, they come up big in the fourth quarter. They never die," Pope said.

"We have to go out there and be ready for a 60-minute game. Some people said they played sorry but to me I think they played well. They were probably looking ahead a little bit and they weren't as focused as they should be, but to me they played well. Especially in the fourth quarter when they needed to play. They looked like the old Miami when they needed to."

Bowden believes the close call served as a needed wakeup call for heavily-favored UM.

"Well, I thought it was probably the best thing that could have happened to them. To wake them up," Bowden said.

"You get to winning so much like they do that it's mighty easy to go to sleep, especially when you are playing somebody you are heavily favored over. So, I thought that was a real good wake-up (call) for them. I equate it to our Georgia Tech ball game.

"It's amazing. It's what the great teams do. They manage somehow even when they are playing bad to win. So many teams last two, three weeks didn't play their good game and got beat. Like Southern Cal and some of these other folks. (UM) did it against Florida. Did it against us last year. That's a trademark of an outstanding team, an outstanding program."


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