tampabay.com

Supporting cast deserves some love

By JOEY KNIGHT
Published October 7, 2006


TAMPA - Just when it seemed Chelo Huerta Field was at full capacity, ebb and flow somehow squeezed their way in, with some dandy subplots in tow, no less.

In Plant's skid-halting, statement-making victory against perpetual nemesis Hillsborough, Panthers quarterback Robert Marve was glorious. His defense, meantime, swayed between vicious and porous. Hillsborough's 11th-hour rally was downright furious.

All of which combined to make Plant's receivers, once again, inconspicuous. And that irks the heck out of Marve, who came away Friday night with 257 passing yards, two touchdowns and one bold assertion:

Without his corps of wideouts, his team doesn't eke out this 28-21 thriller and isn't sniffing a 6-0 record.

"I don't know why everybody wants to sit here and say, 'Robert this and Robert that,' " Marve said moments after his team ended a 12-game losing streak to the Terriers. "Well, Robert needs guys."

Friday night he found seven of them. Subtract two Marve interceptions in Hillsborough's end zone - one by Kendall Brown, the other by Lavert Sims - and Plant had no dropped passes. None. The Panthers caught dump-offs and darts, corner routes and curls. And they did it with diversity.

Marve's first five passes went to five receivers. Senior Cam Martin, who had TD catches of 15 and 12 yards in a 77-second span in the second half, ranked sixth on the team in receptions (six) entering the game.

But insist, if you must, that defensive back Cornelius Gallon's end-zone pick on Hillsborough's final play was truly the clincher. Well, Gallon's a receiver, too. Before his decisive pick, he hauled in Marve throws of 51, 10 and 23 yards.

"They were unbelievable," coach Bob Weiner said of the receivers. "And they're always unbelievable."

Weiner credits receivers coach T.J. Lane with seasoning their hands through simplistic repetition. Each day, Marve stands 10 yards from his catchers and flings one hardball after another. More bullets fly during goal-line passing drills.

"Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we really bust their butts in practice because we know sometimes we can't run the ball," Lane said. "...So every week we go in putting the pressure on the wide receivers, saying the wide receivers have to win the game."

Make no mistake: They won it Friday.

"There might be faster (wideouts)," Weiner said, "but if there's a better group of wide receivers in the state of Florida, I want to see them."