Undaunted Underclassmen

TALLAHASSEE – Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford and his counterpart, Miami's Kyle Wright, have their share of similarities.

Both will make his first career start when the Seminoles host the Hurricanes in a nationally-televised showdown between the rivals Monday night. Both are excellent students that come from football families. Each beat out teammates with heralded high school exploits to gain starting jobs. Both enjoy the rhythmic thumping of drums and brass crescendo that comprise the FSU warchant…

Come again?

That's right – Miami's starting quarterback says that one of college football's most recognized, revered and reviled traditions helps ready him to play.

"It pumps you up and builds intensity," Wright said. "It's pretty entertaining, too."

Like Wright, Weatherford isn't going to be intimidated just because a rowdy stadium is the setting for the opening chapter of his college football career. Neither passer is daunted because the initial objective is momentous one: lead teammates to face an arch nemesis

"I try not to think about it too much, that's the biggest thing," Weatherford said. "I think and prepare for the game, but I don't necessarily think about how big it is. When it really comes down to it, it's just a football game and we have got to go out and execute to get things done."

Both the Seminoles and Hurricanes know that storybook results from fledgling signal callers results aren't likely. Miami quarterbacks are 18-14 in first starts against the Seminoles. FSU quarterbacks are just 13-17 when facing the Hurricanes for the first time.

Experience is thin – Weatherford has been on campus 14 months and has one college snap on his resume; Wright has nine passing attempts in his career but he has been around for two seasons and three springs to absorb the nuances of the UM offense.

Getting into the backfield early and often will be a priority for both defenses.

"He's young and he's going to have his back against the wall coming in here," said FSU linebacker Ernie Sims of Wright. "We want him have that ‘deer in the headlights' look from the start."

Both coaches have resigned themselves to the certainty that deficiencies associated with breaking in a new quarterback will surface at some point in the game.

The talent that both teams have on defense is sure to compound matters. An outcome close to last season's 16-10 Miami victory seems feasible.

"(Weatherford) is going to have problems because he hasn't been on the field long enough in a game to know how to handle all the problems that can arise and the problems Miami will present to us," Bowden said. "We hope we can present them some too. The only way he is going to get that is through experience. The thing he has shown me is that he has the tools to be an outstanding quarterback."

Roger that from Coral Gables.

"There will be things that will be exposed, but hopefully not too many," Coker said. "It's not like (Wright) has just shown up. Has he been to Tallahassee and played in front of 80,000 people? No. Is he a big time player? Yes. When you look at his tools, he's a lot like some of the quarterbacks who have played here and won national championships in past."

Starting strong and controlling the game by avoiding turnovers were big factors that helped to dictate the outcome in past FSU-Miami games.

Some trivia: FSU's current losing streak to the Hurricanes is punctuated by turnovers – the Seminoles are guilty of 21 in the teams' last six meetings. In the series, the team that scores first has won 18 of the last 20 meetings.

However, keeping composure when things do not work out according to those blueprints may be paramount this season.

"We know things aren't going to be perfect," FSU guard Matt Meinrod said. "It's going to be up to us seniors to help calm our guy down in the huddle."

Wright and Weatherford have also shared the same mentality throughout the preseason. Experience aside, the rules of the game are the same. "Eleven on offense and eleven on defense" was an under-analysis actually offered by both in separate interviews.

"There's no way to prepare for it, butterflies are natural," Wright said. "Even fifth-year seniors have butterflies before games like this. I haven't played in this kind of game. I'm sure I'll find away to somehow relax and calm down for it and then go out and execute the game plan."


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