Red Dragons earn first win at Bob Boozer Field since 1995
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford and Kyle Wright, his counterpart from Miami, are about to take center stage in one of college football's greatest rivalries.
Both will be making his first career start Monday night when the ninth-ranked Hurricanes open the season against the 14th-ranked Seminoles.
What a way to make a first impression.
"We can't go in and make first-game mistakes that you'd get away with against a team of a lesser caliber," said Wright, a sophomore who played sparingly behind Brock Berlin last season.
Wright took hold of the No. 1 spot in the spring and secured the starting job in the preseason. Ten of the last 11 Miami quarterbacks have won their first start. Ryan Clement's loss to Florida State in 1995 is the only blemish.
Weatherford, meanwhile, didn't know until last week he'd be Florida State's starter.
The job came open when Wyatt Sexton was sidelined for the season with Lyme disease, and Weatherford outplayed Xavier Lee to earn the nod for the opener.
"I'm sure I'll make some plays a freshman will make," Weatherford said. "And I know I'll do some good things."
Lee will likely get into the game, too, but how much will depend on how Weatherford plays.
Florida State quarterbacks have won their first start 11 times in a row. The last to lose was Peter Tom Willis to Southern Mississippi in 1989.
"Everybody keeps asking about Kyle and Weatherford," Miami assistant coach Art Kehoe said. "It's not so much who makes the big plays. It's who avoids the bad ones. That's the big deal."
Lately, Florida State has been the team making the key mistakes in the rivalry, especially at quarterback. Miami has won six straight, including the last five with Chris Rix starting at QB for the Seminoles.
A year ago, the Miami-Florida State game scheduled at the Orange Bowl was postponed four days because of Hurricane Frances.
Now, a week after Katrina came ashore some 300 miles west, football goes on and school officials are hoping the attention on the game produces more help for the storm's victims. The two universities, ACC and NCAA are all foregoing their traditional advertisements during the ABC telecast to allow messages focused on relief efforts.
It's the second straight year Miami and Florida State, which became Atlantic Coast Conference rivals last season when the Hurricanes moved into the league, have opened the season against each other.
"The bad news is you've got to be in midseason form to compete against the people you're playing," lamented Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who has had a handful of national title opportunities taken away by Miami over the years.
Last year, Miami made a late comeback before winning in overtime.
Miami features one of the country's most versatile and dangerous players in Devin Hester, who lines up as a cornerback but is at his best returning kicks.
Florida State can keep the pressure off Weatherford with the tailback tandem of Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington, who combined for 1,838 yards rushing in 2004.
"We certainly have to tackle well," Miami coach Larry Coker said.
Coker would just as soon play the game later in the season, but Bowden favors the early matchup.
"I think it's worth it," said Bowden, major college football's winningest coach with 351 victories. "We can't afford to be missing an opportunity to play on national television on a Monday night."
Coker, however, is philosophical about starting off with the school's most significant rival.
"We need to find out about ourselves," Coker said. "We're going to get a tremendous test."