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Weathering well

After a rainstorm and a flurry of criticism, FSU bounces back in the ACC.

[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
FSU receiver Talman Gardner, right, and tight end Patrick Hughes celebrate Gardner's touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 4, 2002

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State sophomore quarterback Chris Rix played so poorly in a tropical storm a week ago, he found himself in the middle of a maelstrom of criticism.

FSU students, mugging for the ESPN cameras, held derisive signs in the end zone:

"Turnoversaurus Rix."

"Every Seminole's Positive Now ... Bench Rix."

And though Rix had the wind knocked out of him and gave way to backup Adrian McPherson for much of the second quarter, he found safe harbor with an effective performance in a 48-31 win against Clemson Thursday night.

The fourth meeting between coaching father and son, Bobby Bowden and the Tigers' Tommy, went the way the others had.

"It was very important for the team and especially me to get this win," Rix said. "No turnovers. Manage the game well. That was my job this week. ... I really don't care about any critics, I care about pleasing my coaches and my teammates."

Rix completed 8 of 13 for 114 yards and a touchdown. He added a rushing touchdown and threw no interceptions. Rix threw an interception on the first play of overtime Sept. 26 at Louisville that led to a stunning 26-20 loss.

"I thought he was pretty solid," said Bobby Bowden, who agreed with offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden and quarterbacks coach Daryl Dickey to try McPherson with the outcome in doubt.

McPherson, a talented sophomore, was 0-for-6 but rushed twice for 15 yards, helped lead the Seminoles (5-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to a touchdown and, most important, avoided mistakes. But Bowden, unhappy with some of the booing directed toward Rix, made it clear Rix is the starter.

"I never lost it (confidence in him)," Bowden said.

"Chris did a good job of staying within himself," added senior guard Todd Williams. "I really appreciate Chris not holding his head down. And I respect that. He didn't try to do everything on his own."

He didn't have to.

Junior tailback Greg Jones, a South Carolina native, rushed for 165 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 22 carries.

And the defense, which allowed 341 first-half yards and 24 points, shut down the Tigers and quarterback Willie Simmons in the second half.

"We had to win the fourth quarter; we had to start winning the fourth quarter," said junior cornerback Rufus Brown, who had an over-the-shoulder interception early in the third quarter that helped set up a Jones touchdown run.

But no one among 78,841 at Doak Campbell Stadium could have figured that.

Not after a wild first half.

"That's as exciting a football game as I've been around in a long time," Bobby Bowden said.

FSU took a 7-0 lead after Clemson punter Wynn Kopp dropped a snap and was tackled at his 18-yard line. Three plays later, Rix dived for a 1-yard score.

Simmons, a former Quincy Shanks standout, answered by hitting Airese Currie for a 28-yard touchdown. The Seminoles hadn't allowed a first-quarter touchdown this season.

After Clemson recovered an onside kick, Simmons led his team to another touchdown, a 2-yard run by tailback Yusef Kelly with 3:13 left in the quarter.

In 4:45, Clemson got 14 points. In its previous five games in Tallahassee it had scored 10.

Receiver Talman Gardner returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Clemson 44, but Rix ran for 3 yards on first down and drew a chorus of boos. He then was sacked on second down and the boos intensified. Rix followed with a perfectly-thrown pass to Gardner for 19 yards, but had the wind knocked out of him by defensive end Bryant McNeal and left.

McPherson handed off three straight times, the last to Jones for a 20-yard touchdown.

"We couldn't tackle No. 6," Tommy Bowden said of Jones. His Tigers entered eighth nationally against the run at 87.5 yards a game.

A 20-yard field goal by Aaron Hunt gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead midway through the second but FSU freshman Leon Washington returned the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.

Simmons continued to bedevil the defense late in the half when he hit receiver J.J. McKelvey for 59 yards to the FSU 9.

Simmons then hit Derrick Hamilton for a 9-yard touchdown and a 24-21 lead with 27 seconds left in the half. Upon Rix's return, Jones crashed into the middle of the line, bounced outside to the left and raced down the sideline for a careerlong 64 yards to the Clemson 5.

Rix then hit Gardner from 5 yards and FSU led 28-24. After Brown's interception Rix completed passes to junior Anquan Boldin and sophomore Craphonso Thorpe and Jones capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge for a 35-24 lead.

After Kelly scored, the Seminoles turned a fumbled punt into the first of a pair of 22-yard field goals by Xavier Beitia and a fumbled kickoff into Jones' final score.

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