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Rejuvenated Jackson gets running game back in gear


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 2, 2000

CORAL GABLES -- All James Jackson needed was a pep talk and a few extra carries to snap out of his slump. Going against Rutgers' injury-depleted defense didn't hurt, either.

A preseason Doak Walker Award candidate, Jackson had rushed for only 143 yards and one touchdown in Miami's first three games and found himself on the bench in the second half.

At Rutgers Saturday, he rushed for 118 yards on 15 carries and became the first Hurricane since Edgerrin James in the 1998 season finale against UCLA to score three touchdowns in a game.

"There is a little relief," Jackson, 24, said. "I've been in a drought. My coaches believe in me and know I can do this the next eight games. We wanted to take it to (Rutgers) and take it to them early."

Sensing Jackson was pressing, coach Butch Davis had a heart-to-heart talk with his 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior a few days before the game.

"Edgerrin James fell into a trap two years ago where every time he touched the ball, he wanted to have that 12-, 15-, 18-, 30-yard run," Davis said. "He was trying to score on every play. Once he settled down, then he started rushing for 150, 160 yards a game. ... The big plays will come if they're just patient."

With running backs Clinton Portis (broken toes), Will McPartland (concussion) and D.J. Williams (hip) injured, Miami is relying heavily on Jackson and Najeh Davenport.

Davenport, who switched to fullback because of injuries, gained 75 yards and caught three passes for 27 yards in the 64-6 win over the Scarlet Knights.

FOCUSING ON FSU: While Davis has lost five straight to Florida State, he believes the disparity between the programs is narrowing. In 1997, FSU won 47-0. A year ago, the score was tied at 21 at halftime before FSU won 31-21.

"I'd like to think that every year the games have gotten closer," Davis said Sunday. "Every year the games have gotten more competitive. The talent level has become more even."

Davis will find out Saturday, when his No. 7 Hurricanes host the No. 1 Seminoles at noon.

"They've got an excellent scheme and a quarterback who's got a ton of experience," he said. "People around him make plays. Their running game is good. It really makes you honest."

Davis said a big key to Seminoles' success is that they keep producing top defensive linemen.

"They have six, eight, nine defensive linemen they rotate in and out," he said. "Clearly, they have the best group of defensive linemen in the country. It hasn't changed a lot (since 1995)."

DEFENSIVE LINE HURTING: A left heel injury kept backup defensive end Jevon Rhodes out of Saturday's game.

Rhodes started the first two games when Jamaal Green was suspended.

UM has started four different line units. Tackle Damione Lewis, one of the top lineman in the country, was held out because of a broken little toe on his right foot. Lewis' status for Saturday has not been determined.

DORSEY KEEPS IMPROVING: Sophomore quarterback Ken Dorsey was 14-for-19 for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Dorsey has thrown 121 consecutive passes without an interception, two attempts shy of the school record set by Gino Torretta in 1992.

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