In Good Hands

The future looks bright for Florida State's running game. So says senior tailback Nick Maddox, who is making the most of his final season with the Seminoles. Maddox said he will be fine for Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at North Carolina State after sitting out last weekend's game against North Carolina with a minor ankle sprain. "There won't be as much pressure on the coaches to keep me in there. They can get those young guys in there if need be," Maddox said.

The future looks bright for Florida State's running game.

So says senior tailback Nick Maddox, who is making the most of his final season with the Seminoles. Maddox said he will be fine for Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at North Carolina State after sitting out last weekend's game against North Carolina with a minor ankle sprain.

FSU can clinch its 10th conference title in 11 seasons with a win. It's not expected to be easy, since the Wolfpack defense ranks first in the ACC (312.4 yards per game -- 176.2 passing and 136.2 rushing).

Maddox, who has registered consecutive 100-yard rushing games versus Wake Forest and Georgia Tech since taking over for the injured Greg Jones (torn knee ligament), watched with interest against the Tar Heels as freshmen Leon Washington and Thomas Clayton filled in at tailback.

The duo combined on 80 rushing yards on 21 carries and blocked well against UNC's constant blitzing.

"They did good, they looked real good," Maddox said.

"They were definitely above par out there. I was very impressed. I could have played but I felt like they did a good enough job for us to win. They helped us out in a whole bunch of ways and know they've shown the ability to play. There won't be as much pressure on the coaches to keep me in there. They can get those young guys in there if need be. FSU's running game will be in good hands next year."

Though Maddox is back, FSU coach Bobby Bowden said the Seminoles will continue the same plan with freshman Lorenzo Booker, who worked with the first-team offense at times in practice. Booker, who had hoped to redshirt this season, will be ready in case of emergency. However, the plan hasn't changed - FSU will stay wth Washington and Clayton as backups behind Maddox.

While Washington has gained valuable experience on special teams - he's tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with an 11.0 average on 25 punt returns - Clayton saw his most extensive action of the season. However, he also fumbled for the fourth time, though the Seminoles recovered.

"There was some miscommunication," Clayton said and smiled. " I thought it was an inside run and it was an outside run. When I tried to adjust my hands, it was too late. He (running backs coach Billy Sexton) still has confidence in me. All he said was, 'Not again. Not again.' He knows I've improved on that."

Of course, Maddox has a history of performing well in his home state of North Carolina. Maddox's last opportunity to play in the Tar Heel State as a collegian comes Saturday.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," Maddox said. "As the week goes on, I should be feeling like I want to be. I haven't said anything to the coaches, but they know how much not only this game, but winning a conference championship means to me."

AS A TEAM: Since their game at Wake Forest on Nov. 2, FSU's opponents have had to plod their way down the field, with FSU not allowing a touchdown play longer than 20 yards. The Seminoles much improved defensive effort hasn't gone unnoticed. FSU has allowed just 27 points and generated seven turnovers during their last two-and-a-half games.

"I think the biggest thing is we started playing team ball," said defensive coordinatgor Mickey Andrews. "Team means you've got accountability. You've got to hold up your responsibility. I think sometimes in the past we were trying to make plays rather than doing our jobs and [were] not as focused and playing with as much determination as you've got to."


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