Role Reversal

Life has come full circle for No. 9 FSU and top-ranked Miami. Two years ago in the Orange Bowl, UM, in dire need of a victory, upended the Seminoles behind a sophomore quarterback named Ken Dorsey. This time it's the Seminoles who are in dire need of a win behind sophomore quarterback Chris Rix. Dorsey, for one, says the 'Noles remain strong. "I don't put too much stock in the fact that people say they are down. I don't believe that. I think they are still a great team with a great defense."

It was only a few weeks ago when Florida State appeared ready to pose a serious threat to top-ranked Miami. However, the Seminoles' loss to Louisville and an inconsistent performance last Thursday against Clemson have taken some of the luster off Saturday's showdown.

Even so, UM coach Larry Coker, whose team is a double-digit favorite, expects an entertaining game that reflects the storied rivalry.

In fact, the teams have reversed roles since last meeting in the Orange Bowl in 2000, when the Hurricanes upset the Seminoles 27-24. The game marked UM's return to the elite of college football and proved to be an important stepping stone in the career of quarterback Ken Dorsey.

This time it's the Seminoles who are looking to regain their status among the nation's best teams, and Chris Rix's turn to solidify himself as one of the country' top young quarterbacks after being booed by hometown fans against Clemson.

"I think there are some similarities there," Coker said during Wednesday's teleconference.

"The fact, they lost a game. We lost a game (to Washington in 2000). We felt like still we had a chance, if we could beat Florida State, that maybe compete for a national championship. It didn't happen. But we did have a chance. That's all you can ask. When you lose a game, you somewhat put yourself at the mercy of some other teams. That's what was so great about our situation last year. We didn't lose a game and we controlled our own destiny."

Ironically, FSU lost to Oklahoma for the national championship in 2000. The Sooners' 13-2 victory only fueled the Hurricanes' determination that has helped their recent success, including last year's perfect run to the national title. The Hurricanes have won their last 19 games at the Orange Bowl and have yet to lose in their first 17 games under Coker.

Coker, then an assistant under Butch Davis, says he can remember the feeling of urgency in the team's preparation for the Seminoles two years ago. Many believe FSU is in the same situation after dropping four games last year and losing at Louisville two weeks ago.

"I can tell you first hand there was a sense of urgency on our part," Coker said. "We've had some pretty good years around here, even going through probation, and been Big East champion and so on. But until you beat a team like a Florida, a team like a Florida State, you haven't arrived. The years we had been here we had not beaten Florida State and many of those years had not even been competitive. We lost to Washington, who honestly was a very good team."

Miami has won the last two meetings over FSU after five straight wins by the Seminoles. Saturday will be the second major test for the Hurricanes, who rolled to a 41-16 win over Florida on Sept. 7. Offensively for UM, the biggest surprise is Willis McGahee, a sophomore who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last four games. While quarterback Ken Dorsey has yet to put up huge numbers, he remains a viable Heisman trophy candidate.

Coker says the ‘Canes must feature a balanced attack against an FSU defense that has struggled this season.

"I hope we can be able to throw the ball and be balanced against Florida State," Coker said. "We ran the ball last year in the first half for I think about two yards. That kind of says a lot right there. We are going against a lot of those same players who played against us last year, so we are going to have to do a much better job of blocking people and running the ball and play selection that we did a year ago."

Coker also likes the Seminoles' offensive balance, pointing to the bruising running of tailback Greg Jones and athletic ability of Rix.

"I think it is a little different Florida State team that I've seen in the fact they are running the ball... it really seems to be a part of their philosophy with their fine running backs," Coker said.

"They are very, very physical. Greg Jones is quite a specimen. But also, we can't forget that Chris Rix is an excellent quarterback. I think he has taken a little bit of a bad rap. He's got a great arm, he's very mobile and he's different from some of the other teams in the fact he has some excellent receivers that we didn't see last year. We know how good Anquan Boldin is. We saw him two years ago and we tried to recruit Anquan. And also Morgan. Those players are outstanding. You just can't stop one guy and leave the others alone. They are a lot like us. They can throw and run."

Dorsey says he hasn't noticed a dropoff in FSU's defense. In his first two games against the Seminoles Dorsey completed 41 of 69 passes for 577 yards, two touchdowns and zero inteceptions. While he has received some lukewarm criticism for his play this season, his numbers – 14 touchdowns and five interceptions – remain Heisman caliber. And, of course, FSU's pass defense is ranked 102nd nationally, allowing 260 yards per game.

"I really haven't noticed a major change," Dorsey said during Wednesday's teleconference.

"I think they are still the same type of team they have been. They can be very, very successful. I think a lot of their yards come when the game is already in hand, when it's late in the game. I don't put too much stock in the fact that people say they are down. I don't believe that. I think they are still a great team with a great defense. They are all very talented players. They are extremely athletic, very quick players. All of 11 of those guys have the ability to make big plays for that defense. You have to have a good understanding for what they're going to be trying to do to you during the course of the game."

While UM hs done little to refute coach Bobby Bowden's earlier assessment – "From what I see, it's Miami and the rest of the world" – the Seminoles need a victory to help catapult them back near the top of the polls.

Much like what UM accomplished two years ago.


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