Coach Bobby Bowden's announcement on Monday that McPherson was replacing Rix at quarterback was seen by many as a dramatic move to avert a team crisis.
The Seminoles, who have dropped three of their last four, travel to Wake Forest Saturday in a pivotal Atlantic Coast Conference game. FSU can still win the ACC title and Bowl Championship Series berth by winning its final four league games, including a road date at undefeated North Carolina State Nov. 23.
McPherson, a sophomore from Bradenton, who was named Florida's top prep player in 2000, becomes the Seminoles' first midseason change at quarterback since Casey Weldon replaced Brad Johnson 12 years ago.
That move changed the lives of two teammates and good friends, who, in a twist of fate, have both ended up in Tampa and remain in close contact. Weldon resides there with his family after a career in the NFL, while Johnson, an 11-year veteran of the league, is the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It was good for me," Weldon told TheTerritory Thursday, laughing as he talked about the quarterback change while at FSU.
"He (Johnson) made it (in NFL). If I don't play I definitely don't make it. It worked out good. Brad maybe the only person in the world that could have come through it like it worked out. He's that good of a person. It's a hard deal. He didn't deserve when he lost it. It was just meant to be. I said the day I graduated that Brad got screwed. It was a flip-a-coin. Things worked out for the both of us."
Calling it intuition, Bowden replaced Johnson with Weldon in the second half of a late-October game against Auburn. The Seminoles lost 20-17, which followed a loss against Miami the previous game, but Weldon started the next week in a rout of LSU (42-3) and remained the starting quarterback through the 1991 season.
Of course, the current Seminoles are in a worse situation.
They are 13-7 since beginning the 2001 season and 1-6 against ranked opponents during the span. The change from Rix to McPherson was something many players implied was needed following the defeat to Notre Dame last Saturday. Frayed emotions and frustration that boiled over in the locker room seemingly threatened to cause further damage.
FSU (5-3) is flirting with its worst consecutive seasons since 1985-86.
"It's always going to be a rallying point, especially with that team right now. A.D. just has to go in there and play ball," Weldon said. "Chris also needs to learn from this and use it as a positive."
Of course, Weldon also has heard and read the Seminoles' comments following the Notre Dame game. Many players have been publicly critical of Rix and even called for a quarterback change. Bowden, however, firmly insisted the decision was something he reached after contemplation Sunday. He walked into his morning staff meeting Monday and told offensive coaches that McPherson needed to be the starter.
"Saying stuff in the paper, on the quarterbacks, that's just terrible. That's ridiculous," Weldon said. "It's embarrassing as a former Seminole to listen to these guys air their complaints to the media. Are you kidding me? Grow up. Who is doing it? There's no one on that team who has done anything to deserve to air their complaints in public like they have. I just don't see respect for each other and coaches."
Bowden said McPherson earned the chance by leading the Seminoles to a pair of touchdown drives in the final four minutes against the Irish. Even though the game's outcome was decided, McPherson showed poise and play-making skills. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 121 yards and two touchdown passes. Rix, meanwhile, enjoyed a solid first half but threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, all in the second half, as the Irish broke open a tie game (10-10) with 24 unanswered points.
"Winning covers a lot of things," Weldon said.
While he can also relate back to his switch with Johnson, Weldon is hopeful the Seminoles can also recover under McPherson and finish strongly. He says it's also important that players let their actions - and not words - set the tempo.
"Like I said things worked out," Weldon said.
"Brad and I were friends (at FSU). There was no dissension. The team wasn't looking for a change like this team is. It was just something that happened. Some of these (current) guys who are pointing fingers need to grow up because they are probably on their last (level) of football and will never play again. Keep your mouth shut and do your job. Enjoy it while you can and don't go out a loser in every sense of the word."