Guarding Against Mistakes

Florida State‘s <b>Jeff Bowden</b> continues to preach offensive balance. That sermon hasn't changed as Seminoles continue preparations for Saturday's showdown at Florida. FSU will face an improved Gators defense that has been especially strong against the pass, led by interception magnet <b>Keiwan Ratliff.</b>

"If we go out there and Florida makes us a one-dimensional team we are obviously not as effective. We rely on balance," Bowden said.

"We don't need it to hang on one player, or two guys. That's just the nature. We are a run play-action offense, with a little mixture of shotgun. That's what we are and we know that."

FSU is second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 29th nationally in total offense, averaging 421.9 yards per game. The Seminoles' passing offense (286.6) is second in the ACC and 17th nationally, while their rushing offense (135.3) is not nearly as effective at sixth in the league and 77th overall.

Of course, FSU will be without its top receiver in Craphonso Thorpe, who is lost for the season with a broken lower right leg.

Thorpe's absence will certainly put more pressure on his replacement -- the trio of Chris Davis, Dominic Robinson and Loren Sam are the candidates -- as well as the Semnoles' running game.

FSU has rushed for more than 100 yards in just five games this season, including a season-low 11 at Clemson Nov. 8. The Seminoles also were limited to 61 yards at home in a rainstorm defeat to Miami.

That's the bad news.

The good news is the Seminoles' rushing attack came to life in the double-overtime victory over North Carolina State.

Leon Washington, who had 134 rushing yards versus Florida last year, had a season-high 121 yards on 17 carries, including the game-winning touchdown, against the Wolfpack. Bruising Greg Jones added 81 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and Lorenzo Booker chipped in 73 yards and a score on three carries.

"Having those three backs are great but if that line is not blocking it doesn't matter how good they are," Bowden warned.

"We have to collectively do it. Any time you can hit a home run out of the backfield, give them shots. It gets frustrating if nothing is happening with your run call. That's where it gets tough to stay with the plan. That's human nature."

Human nature -- better yet, common sense -- says the Seminoles must also keep a sharpe eye on the crafty Ratliff.

With an interception against South Carolina two weeks ago, Ratliff added to his single-season record for interceptions with nine. He has intercepted at least one pass in each of the last five games and became the fourth player in school history to return two interceptions for a touchdown in the same year with his 52-yard run back in the closing minutes of the game against Vanderbilt.

Ratliff's nine picks lead the SEC and rank as the second highest total in the country. He has 182 return yards this year, which rank as the fifth highest single season total in SEC history and the second highest total in the UF record books.

"He really breaks on the ball," Bowden said.

"They have a nice little coverage scheme. They will float him around some underneath some routes and that's where he kind of drifts into some picks. I know what kind of skill he has. I watched him the last couple of springs on TV and he's playing defensive back and wide receiver. I know what kind of player he is. He's a great talent and we are going to have to show him some respect, there's no question."

FSU receiver P.K. Sam also admits the 'Noles will be aware of Ratliff.

"Being a receiver, I don't really give any DB credit but obviously the interceptions he's had this year, you don't get them for just hanging around," Sam said.

"He's made some big plays this year and I am sure he's going to be ready to make some more this game They run kind of a tricky cover-two sometimes. They just try to fool you with how they rotate things."

Sam says not many teams other than Miami this season have challenged FSU with man coverage.

"We didn't really see too much man (this season), " Sam said.

"Miami is always going to play two-man under. Nobody really tired to play us man. You can do things like Notre Dame, which got caught in man and we burned them deep a couple of times. When we have had man, we've made the best of the situation. But nobody really goes in and tries to play us man."


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