Running Wild

When it comes to running the football, an increasing number of college football programs are finding strength in numbers. Count Florida State and Virginia among them. Having a pair of elite tailbacks that are willing to cooperate can generate a number of marked offensive advantages. The running game is expected to be on display on Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium as the Seminoles and Cavs square off.

Florida State's Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker have teamed to rack up 912 rushing yards so far this season and are on pace to produce the highest season total of any tandem of runners Bobby Bowden has ever coached.

Virginia counters with Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman, a versatile duo that has helped vault the Cavaliers to the top of the Atlantic Coast conference in rushing, passing and total offense.

"It's good for the morale of the position," Virginia coach Al Groh said.

"It's good for the long run for them to keep their legs a little bit. It's good in practice, too." FSU joins Auburn, Oklahoma, and Minnesota as top-25 teams who have two rushers that average over 70 yards per contest.

Virginia would probably be in that company if they did not have an excellent third option in sophomore Michael Johnson to create migraines for opposing defenses.

USC, Oklahoma and Georgia are other elite programs who subscribe to the strategy.

"When you‘re facing a team that has a primary runner, you can get accustomed to his style and attack him accordingly," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.

"But when there's two equal backs who play equally you constantly have to be prepared to adapt." Booker and Washington say teamwork, as much as talent, makes their partnership work.

"We have a good thing going," said Washington, who rushed for a career-high 164 yards at Syracuse last week. "

Sure you want the ball every play but Lorenzo and I are ready for whatever, whether its 20 carries or 11 carries."

Added Booker:

"The key is that there's no drop off. We're two good backs with two different styles. One of us is going to be in there fresh no matter what."

It has been Washington with the hot spikes in the FSU backfield as of late. In the past two games, the junior from Jacksonville has averaged over ten yards a carry on his way to breaking previous career-high rushing efforts in wins over North Carolina and the Orange.

If he can reach 150 yards against the Cavs, he'll become the first ever Seminole back to eclipse that mark in three consecutive games.

And he's accomplished all that while giving way to Booker. Despite sharing time, Washington puts up 108 yards a game.

"Definitely you wonder," said Washington when asked to speculate what his numbers could be if he were the feature back in the run-oriented FSU attack.

"But nowadays you need two running backs. A lot of teams try it with one and it doesn't work…like [N.C. State] and T.A. McLendon. If a guy gets hurt you get into trouble."

Because Lundy was hurt last season, a stingy FSU rush defense (2.2 ypc) will have to deal with the Cavalier double-threat for the first time come Saturday. Though Pearman rushed for just 27 yards in his absence, he grabbed a school-record 16 catches for 134 yards and a score in the 19-14 loss to the Seminoles.

In this edition, where there was one there will now be three. Whether or not a banged up FSU defensive line can corral the run will be go a long way in dictating how well the UVA offense can move the ball.

Starters DE Eric Moore (doubtful) and DT Broderick Bunkley (probable) are nursing ankle sprains.

Adding to the threat is that the UVA trio of backs threatens with their quality as well as quantity.

"They hurt us last year with just one," Bowden said.

"They rotate like us now and like doing it. We'll need to be extra ready up front."


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