Special teams have to deliver

University of Miami coach Larry Coker does not have to review game film of the Florida State Seminoles to realize that there isn't much of a gap in talent between the two teams. "We tried recruiting most of those players on the Seminoles, so much like us they have some outstanding players that can really make a difference in a football game," said Coker, as the top-ranked Hurricanes (5-0) prepare to host the No. 11 Seminoles Saturday at the Orange Bowl.

"You know most of these guys played together in high school and have been around each other their entire lives. So, I expect another tight Miami-Florida State ballgame, with a few plays- here and there- making the difference."

Barring a blowout victory by either side (i.e. Miami 49, Florida State 27 in 2001 and Florida State 47, Miami 0 in 1997), Coker is adamant on the impact the special team units on both sides could have in determining the outcome of game. "Special teams play is always a concern or more so this week," says Coker. "We'll try to get our best players in there on special teams and take our chances with them. There's no doubt in my mine that in a close game that will be the difference."

Florida State probably has no argument with Coker- especially on field goals.

The Hurricanes hold a five-game lead in the all-time series against the Seminoles. But it would be even tighter between the intrastate rivals if not for Florida State's ineptness when it comes to making good on field goals.

Florida State has had so much trouble connecting on the three-point attempts they have created separate chapters in this series that they would probably not want to go back and read.

It all started in 1991 in Tallahassee when Florida State kicker Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yard field to the right with 29 seconds remaining in the contest and the Hurricanes held on for a 17-16 victory. Thomas, a senior at the time, was vilified all around town and became a prime target of the Florida State student body.

The following year in the Orange Bowl kicker Dan Mowrey made three field goals – from 22, 28 and 41 yards- to put the Seminoles ahead of the Hurricanes 16-10 with a little over six minutes remaining in the contest.

But the Hurricanes would take a 19-16 lead on the strength of a Gino Torretta to Lamar Thomas touchdown pass and a safety when FSU punter Paul Snyder was tackled in the end zone. Despite surrounding the lead, Florida State quarterback Charlie Ward positioned the Seminoles at the Miami 22-yard-line for a game-winning field goal. Mowrey would miss wide to the right from 40 yards out.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the Seminoles would suffer another heart break against the Hurricanes as freshman kicker Mike Munyon missed a 49-yard field goal with time expiring to clinch a 27-24 victory in 2000.

Wide Right I
Wide Right II
Wide Right III

"You just try to have everything in order when you go out for those," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "It's just one of the things that hasn't really worked out for us against Miami. But they're big, real big."

Like many times in the past, Bowden is confident that if Saturday's game comes down to a last-second field goal the Seminoles have the right kicker to prevail in sophomore Xavier Beitia. Beitia, who missed just one field goal as a freshman last season, is 11 for 13 on field goal tries this year with a long of 46 yards out against Duke. Beitia led the Seminoles in points scored last season with 83, become only the sixth freshman in school history to accomplish the feat.

Beitia has missed once against Virginia and Duke. "The kid has a strong leg and is incredibly accurate," says Bowden. "I'll take my chances with him and go from there."

But for the most part, Beitia has kicked relatively pressure free. Although he was perfect in last year's Gator Bowl victory over Virginia Tech, the 5-10, 210-pounder has never come close to what he could expect against the Hurricanes. "There really magnified in big games," said Beitia. "But I'm not going to let that bother me. All I can do is go out there and give it my best shot. The more you think about those things, the worst it's going to be."

Miami senior kicker Todd Sievers, a contender for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best, has converted four of eight field goal attempts. But Sievers has had his opportunities limited because of the efficiency of the Hurricanes offensive. Last season, Sievers made 56 of 58 extra point attempts and missed just of 26 field goal tries.

"I just have to stay sharp because you never know when you are going to be called on," says Sievers. Sharp may not be the best way to describe the Hurricanes punting lately. Miami had two punts blocked against the Connecticut Huskies last Saturday although Coker said the first block was just a ‘lack of communication' on the line. But Coker added that junior Chris Harvey will be the long-snapper against Florida State.

"We need to correct these things before Saturday at all cost," Coker said.

But the question everybody wants to know is: Is there any chance for a Wide Right IV?

""Hopefully it won't be us," said Coker.

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