September 22, 2003 TALLAHASSEE Four games into the season and what began as Bobby Bowden's personal reclamation project, Florida State is beginning to look like something special. Special, as in an awful lot like the Seminoles' 1993 national championship team. After dispatching Colorado 47-7, Bowden virtually said as much. The comparisons between the 1993 and 2003 Seminoles seemed to pop up everywhere in the wake of a 4-0 start. Two points, however, stood out strongest of all FSU's effectiveness in the shotgun, and the dominance of a defense that is swift and deep. I saw something (against Georgia Tech), Bowden said. No. 1, we made a great goal-line stand, which was (like) the Kansas game. You could tell there was something (special) there. The Seminoles followed up with yet another goal-line stand on the opening drive against the Buffaloes, which ended with Cory Eberhart clanking a 22-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. A week earlier in a 14-13 win over the Yellow Jackets, FSU made four consecutive stops from the two-yard line. Then there's the evolution of the offense, and the development of redshirt junior quarterback Chris Rix, which Bowden likened to the turning moment during the 1992 season at Georgia Tech. That's when the Seminoles put quarterback Charlie Ward in the shotgun to stay. In the Georgia Tech game, when Charlie was a junior, we found out he operated better in the shotgun than we did in the I (formation), Bowden said. We found out the same thing about Rix last week (against Georgia Tech). We put him in the shotgun there at the end of the game, he scored two touchdowns and we won. So we turned him loose (against Colorado). Rix was nothing short of brilliant against the Buffaloes, who offered soft coverage by cornerbacks and help over the top by safeties in an effort to guard against big plays. With FSU's running game still a bit stagnant in part because of defenses geared to stopping the run, and in part because of injuries to shifty tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker the passing game became the easiest route to success. They were determined to make us go the slow way, feeling that we would make mistakes and beat ourselves, Bowden said. Of course, we were playing into their hands on the goal line. Colorado was able to force the Seminoles to settle for four field goals in the first 33 minutes of the game, before FSU finally hit its stride behind Rix's pinpoint accuracy. He finished 30-of-39 for 394 yards and two touchdowns, with the completions and yardage totals establishing new career bests. More importantly, FSU's offensive braintrust had enough faith in their oft-maligned quarterback to loosen the reins. We feel like we've got receivers good enough and a passer good enough that they're going to have to mix (defenses), Bowden said. They're going to have to fool us. Beginning with the final two possessions against Georgia Tech, which resulted in a pair of touchdowns that erased a 13-0 deficit, Rix directed FSU's offense to nine scores over 13 possessions. That streak ended when he was pulled from the game to start the fourth quarter against the Buffaloes. It included five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) to go with four Xavier Beitia field goals. Rix's recent effectiveness and expanded role after some shaky 2003 moments actually exceeded expectations. The Seminoles had no intention of building the offense around the shotgun and would have preferred to feature the running game out of the I formation, balancing that with a blend of the gun and play-action passing. With Washington and Booker expected to return soon and no later than the Oct. 11 showdown against Miami the Seminoles likely will stay in the shotgun, where their shifty styles and pass-catching ability offer more diversity. As for Rix, Bowden is encouraged yet still cautious. If he can just keep improving , Bowden said. I hate to start bragging on him too soon. I'm just very happy with where he is right now. Rix Hasn't Won Over Everyone While Rix appears to be winning over the respect of his coaches and teammates with his play, it's clear that he still hasn't been able to close the gap with the last player to wear No. 16 at Florida State. Chris Weinke stopped by the locker room to visit the team after the Colorado game, but he never made it by to speak to Rix. Weinke, now with the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, still has plenty of friends on the FSU team from his time in Tallahassee. There has been a frosty relationship between the two quarterbacks ever since Rix, a flashy prep All-American from California, arrived on campus in 2000. While Weinke was carving out his place in FSU history with a Heisman Trophy-winning senior season and plenty of headlines celebrating his senior citizen status, Rix quietly impressed teammates with his athleticism but alienated some with his brash personality. Weinke wasn't the only Heisman winner in attendance at the Colorado game. Charlie Ward also was on hand, as part of the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Seminoles' first national championship. The two players posed for photos with their trophies at halftime. Ward did speak with Rix, but he confessed earlier in the week that he isn't much different than any other arm-chair quarterback or media pundit, as he watches from his spot in front of the television at his home in Connecticut. Ward avoided direct criticism of Rix with reporters but also stopped well short of an endorsement. It's awesome to critique someone when you don't actually have to do it, Ward said, trying to stifle a sly smile as he spoke to a room full of reporters. I'm in that category now. I'm very critical of quarterbacks, even in the pros. I'm always critiquing their game, according to what they do. The one thing I do like about Chris (Rix) is that he's bounced back. Beitia Finally Over Scary Slump? As if the Seminoles needed another offensive weapon, they couldn't have been happier to see junior kicker Xavier Beitia climb out of an extended slump with a career-best four field goals against Colorado. Beginning with his game-ending miss at Miami last season, Beitia had converted only seven of his last 14 field goal attempts. He tinkered with his technique, his confidence wavered and nobody was certain he'd ever return to his previously reliable form. Against Colorado, however, Beitia bailed out FSU's listing offense by connecting from 20, 26, 27 and 29 yards. Bowden and Beitia said they both saw that performance coming. The coach said Beitia, who had made just one of his three field goal attempts through the first three games of 2003, boomed 53- and 50-yarders on the final plays of scrimmages prior to the Maryland and Georgia Tech contests. One of his two misses in the real games came via a block, because of a breakdown up front. Beitia also said he and new holder Joey Kaleikini recently began communicating better on the exchange from senior long-snapper Brian Sawyer. Beitia had an idea his number may be called more often against the Buffaloes, because the coaching staff wanted to use the shotgun offense in the red zone. When we were driving over (to the game), I said I'm going to get four field goals, Beitia said. I thought it was going to be tough to run shotgun on a short field. I thought I was going to get a lot of red zone field goals. He also was inspired by the coaches' decision to pass on a 41-yard field goal attempt against Georgia Tech late in that contest. The staff obviously wanted to put the outcome of the game in the hands of the Seminoles' strong defense, but no kicker wants to hear that one of his mid-range attempts is considered a risky proposition. I knew where the coaches were coming from, but I'm not going to lie, it was irritating, Beitia said. For lack of a better word, I just got pissed off. I made it a point to remember those words that everybody was saying. I went out there (against Colorado) with something to prove. The streak of success undoubtedly bolstered the confidence of the kicker and the coaching staff and just in time, with the Miami rematch looming. I think it's great for us, Beitia said. I don't think the coaches ever lost confidence in us, but I think they knew we were going through a little something and it was only a matter of time before we would get out of it.
Similarities To 1993 On Offense, Defense
by Accsports Staff on September 11, 2008