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Team united with Rix

Outside dissatisfaction has not affected the Seminoles after a loss.

BRIAN LANDMAN
Published October 15, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Almost every time Florida State quarterback Chris Rix paused under center Saturday and called out to his teammates, the boos drenched him harder than the rain.

Though fans believed he was changing the play instead of inspecting the Miami defense and awaiting the call from the sideline, their reaction provided a measure of their discontent and confidence.

They had plenty of the former, none of the latter.

Decibels don't lie.

That will happen to any quarterback who has committed four turnovers in a critical game. That will happen to any quarterback whose calling card has been inconsistency.

"Chris Rix has to realize he's not here to please the fans," senior defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "He's here to please the people who go out with him on the field every day and bust their butts, that's all that matters."

But is Rix, a lightning rod for team discord in the past, succeeding at Job 1?

So far, teammates haven't pointed an accusing finger toward him after his mistake-prone performance in the 22-14 loss to the Hurricanes.

"I don't think it's going to be an issue because our team knows what that leads to and that would lead to total destruction," said senior linebacker Michael Boulware, a captain.

Players vociferously lobbied for Rix to be benched after he committed three turnovers in a midseason home loss to Notre Dame last year. Adrian McPherson started the next four games, losing the job when his off-the-field problems led to his dismissal from the team.

"This is not the team from last year or the year before last," senior cornerback Stanford Samuels said. "This is not going to cause us to break apart."

If Samuels hears someone criticizing Rix, or any player, for that matter, he has promised to come down on him.

Hard and fast.

"We don't need that on this team. Period," he said. "We've been through that and we saw where that takes us."

The Seminoles recognize that the circumstances of the day didn't help Rix and the offense.

The steady rain turned the field into a marsh, hampering Rix from following what had been a successful formula - get the ball to his speedy receivers/running backs on the edge and let them try to turn a short pass into a big play.

The conditions also made it difficult for him to throw deep, a staple of the FSU offense and something the coaches believed they could do against Miami. Then, injuries forced center David Castillo and guard Bobby Meeks to the sideline for much of the game, disrupting the continuity the line had developed.

Throw in a key drop by Dominic Robinson that could have been a touchdown or, at worse, a first-and-goal situation, and later three straight runs into the teeth of a Miami defense at the goal line that netted 1 yard and you come up with a disappointing loss.

And boos for the quarterback.

"He can't and shouldn't shoulder all of that," offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. "We shouldn't allow that. Y'all (in the media) shouldn't allow that to happen.

"He's the best quarterback we have, by far. He just makes better decisions in practice (than Fabian Walker) and better plays in practice day in and day out. And that's even with Fabian improving at this point."

For his part, Rix admitted he should have executed better and protected the ball better, adding he can only do what he always has tried to do: work to improve. (He declined an interview Monday night.) Everything else, such as his standing with teammates and fans, he said Saturday is out of his control.

But he realizes his performance against Virginia, a critical Atlantic Coast Conference game, can speak volumes about his and the team's prospects.

"I know I have the confidence in him," junior receiver P.K. Sam said. "It was a tough game, things happened, but hopefully he has the confidence in himself. That's the biggest thing. No matter who has confidence in him, it's how he feels inside."

Rix has completed 114-of-191 passes (59.7 percent) for 1,523 yards and 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. He's second in the ACC in passing efficiency and 30th nationally.

To Dockett, the thing that's hampering the offense is its lack of a "playmaker," a guy who will "step up and grab people by the jersey and tell everybody, "Let's go.' "

As for Rix?

"Any way I can help him get better, I've got to do it," Dockett said. "We're going to win with him or lose with him. All you can do is encourage him."

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