FSU Keys To Victory

The Seminole football team enters Saturday's game as a seven-point underdog, the largest point spread they've faced since 1986.

There are a lot of reasons why a team that hasn't lost at home in a decade isn't favored. In addition to Miami having a pretty darn good team, the primary reasons for the low expectations are FSU's inexperience and the incredible number of injuries. Even so, victory is very possible if a few things go the way of the Garnet and Gold.

(1) Doak Campbell Stadium and the Seminole fans

Fans at Doak Campbell Stadium
Doak Campbell's home attendance record of 83,042 could be broken Saturday
Fortunately for Florida State this contest will take place in Doak Campbell Stadium where no opponent has come out with a win since a certain kick missed its mark by a few inches back in 1991. Even though the numbers show Doak Campbell may be the toughest venue for road teams in the country, it is not usually mentioned in the same breath with Florida's Swamp, Michigan's Big House, or Clemson's Death Valley. This is probably a mistake.

"Doak Campbell is very intimidating," FSU cornerback Stanford Samuels said. "That home winning streak is not just because of the players that played on that field, it was also because of the crowd. When you get 80,000 people with their arms up chopping doing the chant that is hypnotizing."

The 80,000+ in attendance Saturday will have to be loud and relentless like they were against the Canes in 1989 and Gators in 1996. In both of those contests FSU was a home underdog and both times the Noles pulled off the upset win thanks in large part to the raucous crowd.
Likelihood of success 1-10: 9

(2) Pressure Ken Dorsey

Of all the great numbers posted by the Hurricanes through the first four games the most amazing is the number of sacks given up - zero. That number must change if the Noles hope to pull off the upset. When Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey has enough time to survey the field he has the luxury of some outstanding receivers and backs, not to mention the nation's top tight end Jeremy Shockey, to choose from.

Putting pressure on No. 11 is easier said than done primarily because of the bookend All-American offensive tackles, Joaquin Gonzalez and Bryant McKinnie. Even though FSU had some outstanding defensive ends last year in David Warren and Lombardi Award winner Jamal Reynolds, they still failed to apply pressure on the Hurricane signal caller. With the recent injuries at defensive end the two players slated to start, Charles Howard and Kevin Emanuel, weren't even on the depth chart in last year's game.

With the apparent mismatch on the ends, it will likely be up to the guys in the middle, Darnell Dockett, Jeff Womble and Travis Johnson, to apply the necessary pressure. Going into the season this unit was considered the strength of defense. They must not only have a good game, they must dominate and disrupt Miami's offense if FSU is going to have a chance. Also, look for Mickey Andrews, who doesn't usually like to blitz, to throw in one or two from a linebacker or safety up the middle on occasion.
Likelihood of success 1-10: 4

(3) Running game must come up big

I promise this is the last time I'll throw out this stat before Saturday - the team that has rushed for more yardage in this rivalry has won 11 of the last 12. Now that that's out of the way the Seminole running backs and offensive line must improve on their early season performances. The good news is that the Garnet and Gold have the personnel to establish the run against anybody, even the Hurricanes. Both Nick Maddox and Greg Jones were highly regarded rushers out of high school and have shown flashes of greatness in practice. Now if they can just translate that success on the field.

The one unit that needs a wake up call more than any of the others is the offensive line. This group self-destructed and disappointed in FSU's upset loss at North Carolina. With three high school All-Americans and a JUCO All-American on the line there are no excuses left. Contrary to what you might hear out of Coral Gables, the Hurricane defensive line and linebackers are not nearly as talented as last year's bunch (they lost two first-rounders). In fact, they are probably not be as good as UNC's front seven. Control the line, and FSU can do what they want on offense.
Likelihood of success 1-10: 6

(4) Win the special teams


FSU has blocked two punts this season

The one aspect of the game no one seems to be talking about is the special teams. The last time a number one team came into Doak Campbell, and the last time FSU was a home underdog, the special teams came up huge when Peter Boulware broke through the line and blocked a punt attempt in the first quarter. That play lead to a touchdown and the Noles eventually hung on for the 24-21 upset win over the No. 1 ranked Gators.

If the Tribe hopes to repeat history they will need a similar play, or plays, this Saturday. With Miami having an apparent advantage on offense and defense, it is critical for FSU to win all aspects of the kicking game.

"If we don't win the kicking game our chances of winning the game decrease quite a bit," FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said. "That's true in any close games. That's usually where the difference lies."
Likelihood of success 1-10: 6

(5) No mistakes

In every close game you can usually point to one or two errors that cost the losing team. Florida State is not good enough to mistakes against the top-ranked Hurricanes and hope to win. A key to this will be the play of quarterback Chris Rix. So far the freshman signal caller has only thrown one interception but was victimized by a couple of fumbles in the North Carolina loss. He must not only be on target with his passes, he must also protect the ball when he scrambles.

Speaking of the setback in Chapel Hill, the whole team contributed to the loss with several errors - The offense turned the ball over five times, the team committed 14 penalties for 103 yards, there were several breakdowns in the secondary that led to easy scores, and the receivers dropped six passes. If FSU does this again Saturday it could get very ugly.

Mistakes also played a huge role in last year's contest. By halftime the Tribe had turned it over three times helping Miami to jump out to the early 17-0 lead.

Bobby Bowden has a very young and inexperienced team so you can't be sure which team will take the field Saturday at noon. A limited number of mistakes would give this group the best chance for success.
Likelihood of success 1-10: 7


Another amazing stat in this series is that since 1973 Miami is 8-0 in games decided by four points or less. You have to believe that FSU is due to turn the tables. At last check Miami was a seven-point favorite. Last year Florida State was expected to win by a similar margin but Miami came away with the three-point v

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