Another Chance

Four seasons. Five games. Zero wins. Three kicks with the game on the line. Three misses. Those are the raw numbers that sum up Florida State's recent frustration against archrival Miami. Sure there have been numerous highs and lows for the FSU program ever since it last beat Miami in 1999, but nothing has been more emblazoned in the back the Seminoles' minds than getting back on the right track against the Hurricanes.

Florida State verus Miami. Again.

The long-awaited chance will come Friday night with the historic Orange Bowl as the stage and the entire country as the audience.

"It just seems like this game keeps getting bigger," quarterback Chris Rix said.

"I think we are all ready to take it to the playing field." Leading off with the Hurricanes is a gargantuan first task for the Seminoles in a season where the goals aren't limited to beating Miami. Throughout the month-long preseason camp, several players haven't been shy about pinpointing that a national championship is what their sights are set on.

Escaping with a win Friday, of course, would go a long way toward accomplishing that. In 1999, FSU rallied to upend the Hurricanes 31-21 though receiver and Heisman hopeful Peter Warrick sat out amidst scandal involving a shopping trip to Dillard's. They never looked back, turning in the school's first undefeated season and second Sears Trophy.

"We win this game and we steamroll," placekicker Xavier Beitia said.

"I want to beat them one time before I leave. It would be amazing, a huge lift for this team."

It would also provide a huge lift on an individual level. During his career, Beitia has claimed two infamous spots on the list of kickers burdened by the perceived hex against Miami. In 2002, he was wide left on what would have been a 43-yard game-winner. With under seven minutes to play in the 2004 Orange Bowl, he was wide right. Miami won 16-14.

Since then head coach Bobby Bowden opened up the kicking job to freshmen Gary Cismesia and Chase Goggans. Beitia won the job and says his confidence was never shaken.

"As a kicker, you want the game to come to this," he said.

There are two more numbers to ponder – three games in 11 months. The bizarre bowl rematch ensured that the teams would meet for consecutive games, and the gameplay attested to that. Both the Seminoles and Hurricanes played vanilla, choosing a basic offensive attack in order to not to tip their hands.

Don't expect that come Friday. Miami has flirted with putting quarterback Brock Berlin in the shotgun more. FSU, meanwhile, has retooled its passing attack to favor controlled passes to one of its many capable offensive weapons.

Tailback Lorenzo Booker will help Leon Washington with the rushing workload and will be utilized as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He dismisses the notion he's tired of seeing the Hurricanes.

"We've been playing against each other for a month and have been training together all summer," he said. "We want to put our skills to a test. It'll be nice to line up across from someone who's not a teammate."

Most of the buildup has surrounded Rix, who as been handcuffed by turnovers and mistakes in four career losses against the Hurricanes. Now directing an offense flush with talent and experience, he insists the struggles are behind him.

"As far as speed and talent I think we compare with anyone in the country," Rix said. "It's just a matter of taking care of X's and O's now. I do my job and we win the game."

Friday night's kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be nationally broadcast on ABC.

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