By Times staff writers
Published November 20, 2004
5 KEYS FOR FLORIDA
1. HIT THE GROUND RUNNING: Florida State has the nation's No. 1 run defense while the Gators have the top rusher in the SEC, Ciatrick Fason. Backup DeShawn Wynn is expected to return from a strained groin that kept him out for two games, and Skyler Thornton has played well in Wynn's absence. Florida must rely on those three to get its running game going early. When the Gators have been successful this season, the running game has been a big part of the equation.
2. HOLD THE LEAD: Florida has lost three games this season in the final minutes and lost last season to the Seminoles in the final minute. No lead will be safe with FSU in its stadium.
3. HOPE CHRIS RIX REMAINS ON THE SIDELINE: The quarterback has been a thorn in the Gators' side, engineering a late winning drive and having some of his best games against them. So you have to wonder if he has gotten into their psyches. If Rix comes in and has immediate success, who knows?
4. THE OFFENSIVE LINE: It has been the most steady unitbut hampered by penalties at key moments. With Florida State's stellar defense, center Mike Degory and company have to stay away from the flags, give Chris Leak time to throw and Fason and Wynn room to run. Degory said he expects this to be the line's toughest test. It's an exam the players have to pass. If they can't protect and open the holes, it will be a long night for the Gators.
5. STAY COOL: There is a lot of emotion surrounding this game. Their coach has been fired. The Gators haven't won in Tallahassee since 1986. This game is highly charged anyway because of the intrastate rivalry, but Florida can't get caught up in the hype. If it plays tight and falls behind early, the uphill climb might be too much.
- ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times staff writer
FIVE KEYS FOR FLORIDA STATE
1. HOME COOKING FOR SEXTON: Quarterback Wyatt Sexton's performances at home vs. the road have been Jekyll and Hyde-like. In five games at Doak Campbell, he has completed 74 of 107 passes (69 percent) for 895 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. In four road games, he's 51-of-113 (45 percent) for 602 yards, two scores and six interceptions.
2. QUICK STRIKE: The Seminoles know the Gators will come out inspired to win for coach Ron Zook, so the best way to deflate them is an early touchdown. But then the Seminoles have scored a touchdown on their opening drive just twice (UAB and North Carolina) and haven't scored a first-half touchdown in their past four games.
3. CONTAIN THE LEAK: The Seminoles have allowed just six passing touchdowns, but coach Bobby Bowden calls Leak the best quarterback the Seminoles have faced this season. Leak leads the SEC in passing yards per game (270.4) and has thrown 27 touchdowns. He also is a threat to run but uses his mobility more) to buy time.
4. PHASE OUT FASON: Besides leading the SEC, Fason has nine touchdowns. His play has made Leak's job easier. The Seminoles neutralized him last year (21 yards on eight carries) and need to do that again to make the Gators offense one-dimensional. 5. SHORTEN THE FIELD: Willie Reid provided the biggest boost for a struggling offense last week at North Carolina State with his punt returns. He had six for 108 yards, a healthy average of 18 yards (10 is the goal). Slowed by hamstring and groin injuries, he's as healthy as he has been.