Kickoff drawing near

Senior center Antoine Mirambeau (pictured) is tired of practicing against his FSU teammates. He's bored from watching film of Iowa State. He's agitated by having to wait on Saturday. In other words, kickoff can't get here soon enough for the third-ranked Seminoles, who tangle with the Cyclones in Saturday's Eddie Robinson Classic in Kansas City. "They will fight," Mirambeau said. "If we are prepared mentally, it's just a matter of us of going out and taking care of our responsibilities."

Senior center Antoine Mirambeau is tired of practicing against his Florida State teammates. He's bored from watching film of Iowa State. He's agitated by having to wait on Saturday.

Kickoff can't come soon enough.

"I am ready to get back out there and start back up," Mirambeau said.

The third-ranked Seminoles open their regular-season in Kansas City against the unranked Cyclones in the Eddie Robinson Classic. FSU has won 13 consecutive season-openers, dating back to a 30-26 loss to Brett Favre and Southern Mississippi in 1989. Bobby Bowden is 24-2 in season-openers since taking over as head coach at FSU in 1976.

Of course, it's no secret the Seminoles are eager to remove the pain from last season and return among the nation's elite. Iowa State represents the first hurdle in that quest. While the Cyclones are a decided underdog (22 points), they do feature one of the nation's most exciting players in quarterback Seneca Wallace and a defense that returns seven starters and led the Big 12 in turnover margin last season, forcing 26 opponent mistakes.

Even so, Mirambeau believes the Seminoles' will prevail if they play to their potential. Bowden returns an experienced group, as only seven starters had to be replaced from a year ago. The Seminoles lost just six starters in 1999 and went undefeated en route to the program's second national title. The 1993 national championship team lost just nine starters from the previous year.

"They will fight," Mirambeau said of the Cyclones' defensive line. "I think across, we have more ability and more talent than them. Team-wise, we have much more talent than they do. If we are prepared mentally, it's just a matter of us of going out and taking care of our responsibilities."

While injuries disrupted the Seminoles' preseason, their lineup appears settled heading into the opener. Mirambeau anchors an offensive line that features at least two changes -- Todd Williams will start at split guard in place of senior Milford Brown, who was ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA late Tuesday night. Brown was informed of the decision Wednesday. Ray Willis (pictured) will start at tight tackle, where Williams played before the move. Additionally, Alex Barron will start at split tackle if Brett Willams is unable to play due to a shoulder strain.

"We are looking good but we still have to correct some mistakes and we need some of these young guys to step up in case one of us goes down," Mirambeau said. "We are really working hard out there. We are trying to get everything down mentally because I know these coaches know our physical ability. It's all about us putting it together mentally."

Running backs coach Billy Sexton said he won't pick a starting fullback until the end of the week. Injuries and close competition have made the decision tough. Torrance Washington, P.J. Selvidio and B.J. Dean all practiced Tuesday. At receiver, Anquan Boldin says he will be ready after suffering a Grade-1 MCL sprain in the Seminoles' initial preseason scrimmage two Saturdays ago.

"It has gotten better," said Boldin (pictured). "It's still a little sore but, for the most part, I am ready to go on Saturday. All I've been doing is individual drills, no contact. If I am not out here running and breaking a sweat, I get real stiff. The key for me is to stay out there and continue running. Unless something happens for the worse, I will be there (Saturday)."

Defensively, senior Tony Benford will start at noseguard in place of the injured/suspended Jeff Womble.The Seminoles' secondary also appears to be rounding into form after being slowed by bumps and bruises. Of course, FSU's primary target will be the do-it-all Wallace, who can pass and run equally well.

"They look pretty good actually," Benford said of the Cyclones' offensive line that returns one starter.

"They do a lot of zone blocking. The center (Zach Bulter) looks especially good, very physical. I think the OL is pretty good but Seneca Wallace makes them a great offense. He's back there, calling all the shots. He's a senior and that's what they expect him to do. We have to try to get some presure on him but at the same time we need to contain him. They have a lot of plays where he can scramble and make plays. We need to stay in our rushing lanes and be discipline. That's going to be important."

Speaking of importance, Iowa State coach Dan McCarney admitted that one key to the game will be his line's ability to protect Wallace, last year's Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year.

"We basically have lost four starters from a year ago," McCarney said. "We lost three to graduation and Luke Vander Sanden. Obviously it's a concern going into this game. Those kids have played well and practiced well. But it's really going to depend on our ability to protect Seneca."

The same could be said of FSU's Chris Rix. Rix has thrown at least one touchdown pass each of the first 12 games his career. The school record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass is 16, held by Chris Weinke. Tailback Greg Jones will be looking for his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game – he had 101 yards against Georgia Tech and added 120 on 23 attempts in FSU's Gator Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.

McCarney says the Seminoles' overall team speed is also a cause for genuine concern.

"Speed-- it always has and always will worry me," he said. "It's the first time I've ever coached against them. But all of the years I've watched them, the thing you see is they can run away from you and can run away from fast guys. They can run past fast guys. That's what you see. I know we've got some fast guys and a lot of the teams we watch on tape have fast guys. They run away from them."

At the moment, however, time seems to be standing still as the Seminoles focus on the Cyclones. Of course, the waiting could also be over for Bowden, who enters the game tied with coach Paul "Bear" Bryant for second place on the all-time carer win list at 323 each. However, Bowden continues to say he's not preoccupied with passing Bryant or catching leader Joe Paterno (327 wins). Still, there's no denying Bowden's admiration of the legendary Bryant.

"Watching coach Byrant I was able to learn some things that he did and take on maybe some of the attitudes he had," Bowden said. "But I am not like Bear Bryant. He's an entirely different guy. But I did learn a lot of football from him, as much from anybody than I have ever been around."


Nole Digest Top Stories