Avoiding Unlucky Seven

The number seven is considered lucky by the gambling man, has ties to deity and usually comes bundled with positive connotations.

Seven is a number that the Florida State football program is hoping to avoid at all costs when it hosts Miami in its nationally-televised season-opener on Monday night.

Over the past five seasons, the Seminoles have lost six straight games to the rival Hurricanes. During that span, FSU has been dealt 11 defeats by all of its other opponents combined.

Not that any of that will matter to them after the opening kickoff.

"There is so much fire and respect in this rivalry, it really wouldn't matter if we had lost ten in a row or they had lost ten in a row," FSU tailback Lorenzo Booker said. "It's not going to affect the mentality of the other team."

The last time that Florida State beat Miami, the first offering in the Harry Potter series had just cracked the New York Times bestseller list. Moviegoers were raving over The Blair Witch Project and American Beauty and Al Gore's campaign for the White House was just kicking into gear.

The contest was on October 9, 1999 in Tallahassee. Thanks to a massive renovation, Doak Campbell Stadium had just completed a transformation from tinker toy eyesore to red brick monolith.

Preseason all-American and Heisman hopeful Peter Warrick was serving a suspension stemming from improper discounts he received at Dillard's and watched from the sidelines.

The Seminoles struggled early but managed to ease away from the underdog Hurricanes by a final of 31-21. Chris Weinke found 11 different receivers and threw for 332 yards. Travis Minor ran for 145 and posted the clinching score. FSU won its fifth straight against the Hurricanes and prolonged its home unbeaten streak to 44 games.

The tide has since turned.

FSU has appeared in three BCS bowls since then, earning a defeat in each.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are 4-1 in five bowl games (four BCS) during that span with the lone defeat coming against Ohio State in the 2002 national title game. A national championship (2001) and postseason victories against Florida (two) and FSU also dot the past five seasons.

"They started up a dynasty from that point, when we had won five in a row," Booker said. "We'd like to start another (dynasty) for us from this point. We need to get a W because I know the old guys (former players) are tired of seeing us lose."

"You really do start to press a little bit," said Miami coach Larry Coker, who was the team's offensive coordinator when UM dropped five in a row to FSU.

"It starts eating at you."

Perhaps more wrenching has been the manner in which the blows have fallen for FSU. Besides a 2001 rout and the 2003 game that was playing in a driving rainstorm, the Seminoles owned late leads in each contest during the streak.

Costly defensive breakdowns haunted FSU in 2002 and in last season's 16-10 overtime loss, a contest that the Seminoles led 10-3 with 41 seconds to play.

FSU kickers have missed three fourth-quarter field goals (2000, 2002, 2004 Orange Bowl) that would have tied or given the Seminoles the lead in three games.

"You'd think one of those would actually go through," said Bowden, who was burned by "Wide Right" misses in consecutive seasons in the early 90s, as well. "I don't know of any series in the country that has gone down to a kick this many times."

The mentality after the past six seasons has been forget and move on. It's a strategy that players say gets increasingly difficult to follow as the game nears.

"You start hearing it from the fans," senior guard Matt Meinrod said. "And they're right. We have a hundred things that we have got to prove."

Those critics, however, haven't dampened the optimism.

"This is going to be a special game," Meinrod said. "From the warm-ups to the end of the game (when) we're celebrating our victory."

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