In Good Hands

Rushing the football has always played an important role in the Florida State-Miami rivalry. Since 1988, the team that has rushed for more yards has won this game 11 of 13 times. Saturday's showdown will feature a pair of quality tailbacks in FSU's Greg Jones and UM's Willis McGahee. "He's going to find a hole and hit it. You are going to have to get low and wrap up on this guy. He's not going to fall on any arm tackles," FSU linebacker Allen Augustin said.

Rushing the football has always played an important role in the Florida State-Miami rivalry.

Since 1988, the team that has rushed for more yards has won this game 11 of 13 times. The first exception came in 1992, when the Seminoles outgained the Hurricanes by two yards (67-65) but lost 19-16 on "Wide Right II." In last year's game, won 49-27 by UM, FSU outrushed the Hurricanes 214-142.

Don't be surprised if the team that's most effective running the football Saturday emerges victorious.

You have to be diversified against Miami. You can't be one-dimensional or they will absolutely squash you," FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton said.

"You have to keep them off balance with the running game and the passing game. Just very good athletes. Well coached. They have a great scheme. There are very few faults there. They got NFL defensive linemen. The have linebackers who are NFL guys who can run. They probably have at least one first-round draft choice at linebacker. Their defensive backs do a great job of covering and their safeties do a great job of covering the pass and filling in on the run. You have to be diversified against this group."

The good news is FSU has won 19 consecutive games when at least one Seminole has rushed for 100 yards in a game. The streak began Aug. 31, 1998, when Travis Minor ran for 146 yards in a season-opening victory over Texas A&M.

Of course, tailback Greg Jones had 165 rushing yards and a career-high three touchdowns in last Thursday's home victory over Clemson. Jones has rushed for 100 yards or more in eight of the last 13 games and has led FSU in rushing in 11 of the last 14 games. He leads the ACC in rushing (105.5 yards per game) and has helped the Seminoles average 219.8 yards, second in the ACC behind Wake Forest (246.7) and 20th nationally.

The Hurricanes are even more productive on the ground.

Through five games, UM is on a pace to set a school record for single-season rushing yards. If the Hurricanes continue their average of 225.2 yards per game the rest of the season, they will finish with more than 2,700 yards. That will eclipse the record of 2,558 yards set in 1954.

UM coach Larry Coker has said that Willis McGahee may be the best back he's coached at Miami.

After rushing for 60 yards in limited duty during the season opener against Florida A&M, McGahee has gained more than 100 yards in four straight games. McGahee rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries in the Hurricanes' 48-14 rout of the Huskies last Saturday. McGahee's 8.1 average is second nationally to Kent State's Joshua Cribbs, who is averaging 8.8 yards per rush.

"Magee is one of the best backs we are going to face this year," FSU linebacker Allen Augistin said. "Nothing fancy about it. He strikes. He's going to find a hole and hit it. You are going to have to get low and wrap up on this guy. He's not going to fall on any arm tackles."

McGahee has his sights set on the program's single-season school rushing record of 1,416 yards set in 1998. If McGahee continues to average his current 128 yards through Miami's 12 regular-season games, he'll finish with 1,536 yards.

FSU and UM are also two of only eight teams in the country to averagee at least 200 yards rushing and passing. Bowling Green, Iowa, Auburn, Central Michigan, Toledo and Colorado State also are members of the 200-200 club.

The Seminoles are averaging 219.8 rushing yards and 226.2 passing yards for an ACC-best total of 446 yards. FSU ranks 12th nationally in total offense, 20th in rushing offense and 57th in passing offense. The Hurricanes are fourth in total offense (478.4), 17th in rushing offense (225.2) and 38th in passing offense (253.2).

"They are a great team," Augustin said. "The No. 1 team in the nation. We just have to go out there and be prepared to hit people square in the jaw. You just have to go out thre and prepared to fight."

And run, if the series remains on its current course.

"We had some good rushing on Miami last year," senior split tackle Brett Williams said. "And we know if we want to go down and have a chance to hang with those guys, that's what we're going to have to do."


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