Smoke Signals

Florida State received a double-dose of good news Wednesday. The fifth-ranked Seminoles (7-1) returned to the practice field for the first time this week after being chased indoors by rain Monday and Tuesday. On the injury front, <b>Stanford Samuels </b> (neck sprain) has been cleared for Saturday's showdown at Notre Dame (2-5) after missing last weekend's Wake Forest game. Additionally, <b>Jeff Womble </b> (bicep) also will play after missing the Virginia and Wake Forest games.

"The fields were a little wet but we got done what we needed to get done," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who added he didn't believe his team has fallen behind in its preparation for the Irish.

"If this was the first of the year, it would bother you. But this is probably the time of year where you can afford it. You've been going eight weeks. Occasionally, it's probably good for us because the one thing we do get to do inside is the assignments, who do you block and all that.

"The thing you miss is kicking the ball, throwing the ball. So we came out today and got a double dose of that, so we should be pretty close on schedule."

Bowden continues to be wary of Notre Dame, which is looking to avoid three consecutive home defeats for the first time since 1984.The Irish upended the Seminoles 34-24 last season in Doak Campbell Stadium.

"If they don't make mistakes, they are probably about as good as anybody," Bowden said.

"Inexperience will cause that a lot of times. But that's the thing they are going to have -- great emotion. They handled us rather easily last year down here. Outfought us. They did everything a good team is supposed to do down here. They will probably play with a lot of confidence."

WHAT MYSTIQUE?

Much has been made of Notre Dame's tradition and mystique. Although kicker Xavier Beitia is Catholic and attended Tampa Jesuit High School, he never had any interest in Irish folklore.

"I heard about it but I was a Miami fan growing up," Beitia said.

Beitia, however, says he's looking forward to kicking in Notre Dame Stadium, despite the stories of high turf.

"That stuff don't bother me. You can't control that kind of stuff, so I am just going to go out there and do what I have to do," Beitia said.

INJURY REPORT

Samuels, meanwhile, was thrilled to be cleared for Saturday's game. He leads the Seminoles with nine pass breakups. Leroy Smith started in Samuels' spot against the Demon Deacons.

"I thought for a minute I wouldn't get a chance to play, but this is going to be a special thing," Samuels said.

"You sit home as a kid and watch "Rudy" go through all kinds of craziness to get on that team. You see that tradition through a movie, man, you glorify it to point where you make every kid want to be a part of it. You see it and now I get the opportunity to go up there and play in it."

Samuels, however, may have to wear a neck brace, though he thinks that will inhibit him in terms of looking back on pass coverage.

"I can't unless they put me at safety," Samuels said and smiled about the neck brace. "Me and Randy (Oravetz, FSU director of sports medicine) will work out a middle ground. I don't care how it looks, I can't turn back -- it's crazy man (laughing)."

Linebacker Kendyll Pope (right knee sprain) has been ruled out and could very well miss the Clemson game. Sophomore A.J. Nicholson will make his third career start at weakside linebacker in place of Pope.


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