Sending A Message

<b>Leon Washington </b>ran for 104 yards and a touchdown and Florida State sacked <b>Darrell Hackney</b> eight times to rebound from last week's disappointing 16-10 loss at Miami. <b>B.J. Dean, James Coleman </b> and <b>Chris Rix </b>scored on 1-yard runs and <b>Xavier Beitia </b>kicked two field goals for Florida State, which was coming off its worst offensive showing in 24 years.

Florida State's offense didn't do much right against Miami. The Seminoles were heavily criticized across the board, from play-calling to execution.

Fueled by that disappointment, Leon Washington and Lorenzo Bookermade sure FSU's running game played a key role in Saturday's home opener against Alabama-Birmingham.

It did.

The duo combined for 175 rushing yards and one score in the Seminoles' 34-7 victory over the Blazers at Doak Campbell Stadium. FSU finished with 251 rushing yards overall.

"I think we executed more effectively and were able to spread the ball around," embattled quarterback Chris Rix said.

"I think we could have done even better. We put points on the board and I think that will build confidence for next week (against Clemson)."

More steady than spectacular, FSU's rushing effort was still a step forward after FSU was limited to 57 rushing yards in its 16-10 overtime defeat at Miami on Sept.10. That rushing total was the lowest in the series since 1994.

"They (Blazers) were stacking the box and we were caving them in and bouncing it outside," Washington said.

"We made a lot of plays."

Washington finished with 104 yards on just 11 carries, including a career-long 48-yard burst in the first quarter and a 2-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Booker added 71 yards on 16 attempts.

Better yet, the pair helped set up rushing scores from fullbacks James Coleman and B.J. Dean, doubling the position's output from last year. FSU fullbacks scored just one last season, with Dean registering his first career rushing touchdown against Duke.

"It feels good because these guys have been calling me since January," said Dean, an Alabama native who played high school with and against a number of Blazers.

"I am just happy we got the win. I don't know what to say about getting into the end zone. I guess the coaches had faith in the fullbacks. We've worked hard this week to get ready and build up our speeed.

"I guess that work was rewarded."

Washington credited the Seminoles' offensive line, which featured the return of Bobby Meeks and David Castillo.

"The offensive line did a tremendous job," said Washington, who now has FSU's last three 100-yard rushing games and averaged 9.5 yards per carry against the Blazers. "We had some young guys who have come in and stepped up and we had some guys who played injured. Those guys did a good job, I am telling you."

While UAB won't be confused with Miami, the Seminoles knew they needed to rely on their running backs to help set the game's tempo.

Washington had honors early, ripping off his career-best rush on the game's second play. Only a diving tackle from Blazers cornerback Bobby Keyes saved the touchdown, tripping up Washington from behind at the UAB 36.

"Man, I can't get caught like that," Washington said and smiled.

"I am at Florida State and I have to make that play. But the offensive line created a huge hole, and anyone could have made that run." In the end, however, it was the Seminoles who tripped up the Blazers' defense.

"I think we were all very set on setting a tone and getting momentum on our side," Rix said.

"We wanted to take that first drive down the field and score. I know that was my mentality. The rest of the offense felt the same way. It was definitely good to come down and get those points on the board early, but it's frustrating knowe we left some points on the field.

"That is a great challenge for next week to know we can do better."

Washington, who had 71 yards in the first half, nearly matched his career-high 134 rushing yards against Florida two years ago. Booker's inside-outside running helped FSU convert 7 of 8 fourth-down conversions. And Rix also got in the act, scrambling for 42 yards and scoring on a 1-yard sneak.

Washington praised Rix's effort after struggling against Miami.

"He did a good job. That's a way a quarterback handles himself," Washington said. "We know as an offense, if we don't turn the ball over like we did against Miami, we will win just about every game because our defense really dominated on the other side of the ball."

Additionally, Washington and Booker were effective in the Seminoles' passing game, combining on seven receptions for 49 yards. Booker's five catches pushes his season total to eight, sharing the team-high with receiver Craphonso Thorpe.

FSU defense was pleased to see the offense break from its UM funk.

"It's a lot easier when the offense puts some points on the board," safety Pat Watkins said.

"We went out and dominated start to finish and it showed up on the scoreboard."


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