Time To Shine

Receiver <b>Craphonso Thorpe</b> is enjoying a breakout year for the Florida State Seminoles. Ditto for <b>P.K. Sam.</b> FSU's top two receivers have 46 receptions for 744 yards and six touchdowns entering Saturday's showdown against second-ranked Miami. Both, however, are entering uncharted territory, so to speak. Neither caught a pass in the Orange Bowl last year as the physical Hurricanes secondary, relying primarily on press coverage, helped limit the Seminoles to 83 passing yards.

In fact, not one returning FSU receiver made a contribution in the passing game.

They get another chance in two days in Doak Campbell Stadium.

"It's going to be interesting because we didn't do squat against them last year," FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said.

While FSU leaned heavily on Greg Jones in last season's 28-27 defeat -- he finished with 189 rushing yards on 31 carries -- the Seminoles never could seem to get their passing game untracked.

Quarterback Chris Rix completed just 8 of 19 passes, matching a season-low in games he started in 2002.

The Hurricanes' secondary once again is considered a team strength -- with or without senior strong safety Maurice Sikes.

A day after saying Sikes (knee sprain) was doubtful for Saturday's game, UM coach Larry Coker said Tuesday it "may be possible" Sikes, who has 16 career starts, could play against the Seminoles. If not, he will be replaced in the linebacker by either former Lincoln High standout Greg Threat or Brandon Meriweather.

Cornerbacks Antrel Rolle and Kelly Jennings return as well along with free safety Sean Taylor, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder who is tied for the team in tackles with 35, including 22 solo stops.

The group is extremely aggressive, especially the cornerbacks who like to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. The safeties offer deep support.

"Their coverage allows them to be extra physical," Thorpe said.

"Still, every year we play, the game comes down to who wants it the most. It's not one of those games where you can go out and out-physical somebody or you are just going to line up from the person across from you and you know you are going to be much better. Usually, it comes down to who wants it the most."

If that's the case, then the Hurricanes wanted it more last season when it came to defending the Seminoles' passing game. Erase FSU's long reception of 24 yards, and the Seminoles averaged just 8.4 yards per catch.

This year's group, however, is determined to make a difference. Eight different receivers have at least one reception through five games and the unit has recorded eight of the Seminoles' nine passing touchdowns -- tight end Donnie Carter has the other.

"Overall, I think they're a better corps," Bowden said when comparing his receivers this season to last year.

"I think they're a little faster. I think overall they're taller. At least they'll match up height-wise with these guys (Hurricanes) because they're 5-11, 6-foot, 6-1 corners. I think it's a better matchup than we had out there last year. I may have had some guys who could match up speed-wise, but not as far as catching the ball."

Sam, the Seminoles' tallest receiver at 6-3, implemented his own plan this week in preparation for the Hurricanes.

"I've purposely tried to go up against guys like Pat Watkins, (Antonio) Cromartie or B.J. Ward, guys who are physical and have longer arms," Sam said.

"That's the thing with the jamming. We all have to get clean releases in this game. UM's cornerbacks are tall and they have that reach. I was just trying for myself, wanting to benefit by going against somebody with real long arms so hopefully I will be used to it by (Saturday)."

Dominic Robinson, who was applauded by coach Bobby Bowden Wednesday for a solid week of practice, believes the Seminoles must also be aggressive after making the catch against the Hurricanes. Six different FSU receivers are averaging double-digit yards per reception.

Shut out last year in Miami, the unit gets another chance to come up big in the biggest game of the season thus far.

"This is a great opportunity for us as a receiving corps," Robinson said. "We've been feeling like -- we've told you and others -- we want to be the best receiving corps in the nation, and this is another opportunity. We want to show the nation that we are here, and there's no better opportunity against these corners.

"These guys have great size. They all can run. You won't find anybody in that secondary who can't run or who is not strong. It's going to come down to us having to make catches with them having great coverage. We are going to have to catch the ball with them all over us at times. We are going to have to break tackles and make things happen following the catch as well.

"We have to do this and that but really, it's going to come down to who is going to make the big play when they get the opportunity."


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