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Patience gives Rix edge in QB battle

By ALEX ABRAMS
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

TALLAHASSEE -- After Florida State's Garnet and Gold game Saturday, quarterback Chris Rix stood at his locker with his hands on his waist, engulfed by reporters.

Like a veteran, the 20-year-old sophomore hesitated before answering each question. That patience also was apparent on the field as Rix, who had 99 rushes last season, remained in the pocket and found open receivers. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 125 yards and led the Garnet team to a 23-0 victory.

He also further entrenched himself as the starting quarterback entering fall practices.

"(Rix) didn't lose any ground," coach Bobby Bowden said regarding the three-man competition among Rix, junior Fabian Walker and sophomore Adrian McPherson.

"He hasn't lost a bit of anything. He's (No.1)." During the two-hour scrimmage, all three played with either the first- or second-team offense. McPherson, who played in nine games as Rix's backup last season, completed 4 of 8 passes for 77 yards with two interceptions. Walker was 4-of-6 for 41 yards.

"All I can really say about that group is that I'm feeling more comfortable," offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. "As long as they keep progressing, I'll be happy with that. But you've got to keep it a battle. But Chris, I think, is clearly No.1."

When asked if he would feel comfortable with his quarterbacks should the season start today, Bowden answered without hesitating.

"No, I think we need the summer (to practice)," he said.

On the first possession, Rix completed passes of 26 and 13 yards and gained 14 yards on a carry to set up a 6-yard touchdown run by Greg Tony.

Rix led the first-team offense to another score in the second quarter. The 56-yard drive was capped by a 36-yard field goal by former Jesuit kicker Xavier Beitia. Rix, who threw 14 interceptions last season, including six during a 49-27 loss to Miami on Oct.13, threw an interception with 11:35 left in the game when safety Kyle Hall stepped in front of a pass intended for P.K. Sam.

"I feel a lot more comfortable, but obviously, I'm not at the level where I want to be when I finish my career here," Rix said. "The progress I'm making, I'm happy with and hopefully the coaches are happy with."

With 8:40 left, Travis Smith caught a 30-yard touchdown from freshman Matt Henshaw. Smith, a senior, caught four passes for 105 yards, and sophomore Craphonso Thorpe had six catches for 107 yards.

Beitia, who made 13 of 14 field goals last season, made three Saturday, including a 51-yarder that would have surpassed his career-best of 50 made in a 30-17 victory over Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl last season.

He also made both extra points.

Starting defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (knee) and starting linebacker Kendyll Pope (shoulder) did not play because of injuries.

Receivers Robert Morgan and Anquan Boldin, who torn ACLs last season, also were held out. Both said they will be ready when fall practices begin in late July.

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