Pat Watkins and Antonio Cromartie. That's why Florida State fans won't see Washington signal for a fair catch unless ordered to do so by coaches. "> Pat Watkins and Antonio Cromartie. That's why Florida State fans won't see Washington signal for a fair catch unless ordered to do so by coaches. ">

Smoke Signals

<b>Leon Washington</b> doesn't consider himself reckless. It's simply a matter of faith, and he believes in blocking "hold-ups" on punt returns in <b>Pat Watkins</b> and <b>Antonio Cromartie.</b> That's why Florida State fans won't see Washington signal for a fair catch unless ordered to do so by coaches.

"I don't look up at (coverage) because I trust my hold-ups. I definitely trust Pat and Cromartie," Washington said following Wednesday's practice as the third-ranked Seminoles (8-1) continued preparations for Saturday's road showdown at struggling Clemson (5-4) in Bowden Bowl V.

FSU enters the game ranked first in the Atlantic Coast Conference in punt returns with an 11.6 average. Individually, Dominic Robinson leads the conference with a 10.4 average on 12 returns.

Washington, who does not qualify for the league lead because he has not played in enough games due to injury, actually leads the Seminoles with 13 returns for 173 yards (13.3 average) and a long of 65 yards for a touchdown against Wake Forest.

After struggling at Notre Dame last week, Washington is looking for a better performance at Clemson.

FSU fans certainly remember Washington's performance last season against the Tigers, when he returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score in the Seminoles' 48-31 victory. The score was FSU's first on a kickoff return since 1999, when Laveranues Coles raced 97 yards against Duke.

"We struggled against Notre Dame but I doubt if we will see any gunners like we saw in that game -- those guys were 6-4, 6-5," Washington said and smiled.

"Man, they were huge. Clemson, though, its punt coverage is unorthodox so it's going to be pretty tough with returns, too. But it's about field position and that's an area we need to win."

Washington also wants to redeem himself for slippery fingers against Notre Dame.

He nearly cost the Seminoles their shutout late in the game, fumbling in the FSU end zone on a pitch. The athletic and composed Washington, however, was able to scoop up the football in mid-stride and dodge two tacklers for a nice gain before going out of bounds.

"It was just a lack of concentration," Washington said.

"I watched the film and I was moving when I dropped the ball. It's a correctable mistake. Man, I probably would have walked straight into the locker room (if fumble was recovered for Notre Dame score). I kind of walked away from the coaches as I went to the sideline (laughing).

"The one dude missed the tackle. I was so pissed off at myself that I just ran out of bounds. I was thankful it wasn't any worse than what it was."

FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden admitted his displeasure with Washington on Monday, saying, ""That would have been devastating to give up a shutout because we fumbled the ball in the end zone. That upset me pretty badly."

STILL PLEASED

Although the Seminoles were unable to sack Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn last Saturday, FSU defensive ends coach Jody Allen was pleased with his unit's performance.

Allen believes the Seminoles, who have totaled 28 sacks this season, will have better chances at getting to Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Four players have three or more sacks this season -- Eric Moore (6.5), Allen Augustin (3.0), Charles Howard (3.0) and Kevin Emanuel (3.0).

"We played really good against Notre Dame in the run," Allen said.

"We weren't as productive in our pass rush. Wake Forest and Notre Dame, the past two weeks our main purpose was to stop the run. We worked at it, worked at it, worked at it and we stoned the run. We did have some good pressure but we didn't get any sacks and the guys weren't happy about that. Clemson throws it a little more, so you have to work on what you have to face. We are still young enough that when you work entirely against the run, your pass rush suffers."

NO CHANGE

While history suggests otherwise, FSU coach Bobby Bowden hasn't change his opinion.

"I just expect a real tough football game," Bowden said Wednesday. "It's great motivation for them if they can beat us. It's a case where both of us need to win it for different reasons."

Despite growing speculation that Tommy Bowden will be fired as the Tigers' head coach at season's end, his father, Bobby Bowden, expects the Tigers (5-4. 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) to be ready for Saturday's showdown.

Third-ranked FSU (8-1, 6-0) can clinch the ACC title and automatic Bowl Championship Series berth with a win.

Tommy Bowden is 0-4 all-time against his father as a head coach, losing by an average margin of 20 points. The first meeting between father and son in 1999 was the first of its kind in Division I-A football history -- and the closest game (17-14 FSU win) between the pair.

Much has been made of Tommy's plight amongst family members.

"Look, Tommy is going to be fine, regardless of what happens," said younger brother Jeff Bowden.

"They'll be a hundred people trying to hire him if that (getting fired) were to happen. Dad isn't going to worry about it. I ain't going to worry about it. We're going to try and kick his tail, and he's going to try and do the same thing to us. I promise you, I'm not going to try and find a way to beat 'em by 1 (point). I'm not looking for a close (game). I want to win it bad."

Bobby Bowden said the Seminoles must avoid an emotional letdown following the team's win at Notre Dame.

"We have come together well. Last week was good test for us for playing on the road and we played real well. That's encouraging," Bowden said. "I don't think I could ask anymore and that being the case the thing we need to not do is have a let down."

INJURY UPDATE

CB Bryant McFadden (hip flexor), CB Antonio Cromartie (sore lower back) and CB Rufus Brown (flu) were held out of Wednesday's practice.


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