"I know Coach (Bobby Bowden) and them probably don't think I am going to play right now, but I really want to play because this is my last game," Holland said and smiled. "I don't even remember the last time I've played in this stadium, it has been so many weeks. I need a recent memory (laughing)."
It's no secret the Seminoles need Holland, the team's senior starter at guard. Holland has been slowed by a severe ankle sprain, suffered at Wake Forest Nov. 2 when teammate Antoine Mirambeau fell on the back of Holland's lower leg/ankle while being blocked. Holland missed the next two games against Georgia Tech and North Carolina and was ineffective in last Saturday's loss at North Carolina State. His last appearance at Doak Campbell was the 34-24 defeat to Notre Dame Oct. 26.
"He could block a guy but not push him anywhere," offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said of Holland's performance against the Wolfpack. "He is one of the strongest guys we've got. He was trying to go out there and play on guts, but his ankle wouldn't hold up. He couldn't do anything effectively."
Holland, a first-team All-ACC selection earlier this week, has been a calming influence on an offense that has been hit by injury and inconsistency. The unit featured four new starters in last home game against the Tar Heels, and more changes are in store for Saturday's home finale against the Florida Gators.
Chris Rix once again takes over at quarterback following the dismissal of Adrian McPherson. FSU is also extremely lean at tailback, where starter Nick Maddox continues to recover from an ankle sprain he re-aggravated at N.C. State. Freshmen Leon Washington and Thomas Clayton are expected to carry the load, while Willie Reid is expected back following a shoulder injury suffered at Wake Forest on his first and only carry.
"Willie is back," Bowden said.
"We are holding him from contact. He says it feels okay but he won't know until he takes that first shot on his shoulder. And we're not going to find out by putting him in contact this week. He is getting all assignments. Nick looks to be. ... we are going to practice if he's not going to be there. He tried to get there last game and, after watching film, he barely looked 70 percent of the Nick I've seen most of the year. The No. 1 plan is getting Leon Washington ready and Thomas Clayton ready. Willie is the guy we are counting on, but we are not sure how long he will hold up. We will have to wait and see during the game."
The rushing attack has always played a key role in the FSU-UF series. Since 1990, the tam that has rushed for more yards is 12-1-1. In '95, the Gators won 35-24 despite being outrushed 138-94. Last year, the Gators picked up 123 yards on the ground while FSU totaled just 40 rushing yards in the defeat.
The Seminoles also are looking for their homefield advantage to play a key role in the game. FSU is 6-0-1 in the last seven meetings in Tally and the series is tied 9-9-1 all-time at Doak Campbell Stadium. Holland says it's important that FSU ends this season on a positive note. Despie last week's loss, the Seminoles clinched their 10th ACC title in 11 seasons.
"It's disappointing but you have to move on," Holland said of the Wolfpack defeat. "We have two games left and we need to win both. We don't want to be a senior class that loses its last three games of its senior year. One of our goals was to get the ACC championship back. It kind of fell our way. We don't really feel like, from the last game, .... but it happens. We are ACC champs. That was one of our goals, so we are moving forward. We have to stay focused."
Of course, that could be tricky following McPherson's dismissal Monday.
"(There's) a lot of temptation around here, being in a high profile program," Holland said. "I really don't know what happened exactly and I don't want to know. It's heartbreaking to me. It's easy to do. You have guys like Pete (Warrick). People ask how he (got in trouble). It's easy. You have to pick and choose and use your wisdom. When you are young, you don't have a lot of it."
Current wisdom also says the Seminoles need Holland in the lineup against the Gators. And Holland would love nothing more than one final (positive) appearance in Doak Campbell Stadium. Bowden said he liked his team's preparation during Tuesday's practice.
"I there's obviously a little bit missing, just because of losing the last game," Bowden said. "I thought their attention wa good. Their focus was good. Their throws were crisp. They caught most of the balls. Their assignments were good. That's what you look for."