Staying Composed

When <b>Chris Rix</b> needed cheering up last summer, he watched Florida State's victory over Florida at Doak Campbell Stadium a year ago. Rix turned in one of his best overall performances in that 31-14 victory, running for 83 yards, throwing two scores and avoiding costly mistakes. Rix will make this third-career start against the Gators Saturday in The Swamp. Will it be his last appearance against UF?

There have been whispers Rix, a redshirt junior, is contemplating leaving FSU early for the NFL. Rix addressed the subject at media day last Thursday, saying his focus was on the Gators and the remainder of the season.

FSU returns to practice today following a long weekend break.

"I am really not thinking about that all," Rix said.

"My focus is Florida right now, finishing out the season with my teammates and coach Bowden and trusting everything else will take care of itself. My focus right now, like I said, is finishing the season, beating Florida, winning our bowl game and then we will see what happens from there."

Rix, of course, has drawn his share of applause and criticism the past three seasons. Although considered an exceptional athlete, Rix has been plagued by inconsistency since arriving from Santa Margarita, Calif., in 2000.

But there's no denying his production.

Rix ranks second on FSU's all-time total offense list and 10th on the ACC career list with 7,975 yards. Only Chris Weinke (9,473) has accumulated more total offense in FSU history. Rix threw three touchdown passes in FSU's win over North Carolina State two Saturdays ago and is now one behind Danny Kanell (57) for second on the FSU career touchdown list behind Weinke (79).

Naturally, FSU fans are more concerned about Rix's preparation -- and performance -- against the Gators than records.

Rix also understands the matchup's importance and how it impacts the Seminoles' season.

"(It can be a ) big step, being how Florida has played this season, especially of late, the winning streak they are on and the level of football they are playing at right now, being able to beat them at home, at their place, I think would be big for our program and show that Florida State is a step closer to being back," Rix said.

"I think that's everyone motivation right now. It's a big game with our rival. We can clinch 10 wins. We can do so much by winning this football game and hopefully everyone realizes that."

Rix also is impressed with the UF defense, a unit that has nabbed 20 interceptions this year.

"I see a lot of playmakers, guys swarming to the ball," Rix said.

"Yeah, they have some young guys up front and at linebacker, but their secondary is so experienced with all seniors and the kind of numbers they have. Very impressive defense. I know playing at home they are going to be pumped up, getting the crowd into it. We are really going to have to focus in on executing our game plan and our assignments if we are going to be successful on offense."

That success, of course, starts with Rix.

While he will be without his top receiver in Craphonso Thorpe, who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken leg, the Seminoles feature plenty of skill. In fact, offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said he will remind Rix of his oft-repeated message -- rely on the talent around him.

"That is good for them to mention that to him," receiver P.K. Sam said.

"It's only natural when a key player goes out, you kind of think you have to do more. He just has to know he still has some good receivers out there, whoever steps in for Cro. He doesn't need to go out there and try to be Superman. Just stay within himself and make his reads and we will be alright."

Of course, Rix can also watch last year's game for a confidence boost.

"(During the) off-season when I ever needed cheering up I watched that game,‘ Rix said. "It was a fun game to be a part of and play in. Hopefully, we will have another experience like that this year so the seniors can say they won in The Swamp."

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