More than wanting win, Fla. State needs it badly

Confidence low for 'Noles as Georgia looms in Sugar

January 01, 2003|By Josh Robbins | Josh Robbins,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEW ORLEANS - What at first appeared like a blip on the radar screen now threatens to become a disturbing pattern for Florida State. For the second consecutive season, the Seminoles have lost four games and finished well out of the national title chase.

Though Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden often has said every major-college football program occasionally goes through a down cycle, even he acknowledged that his team could use a morale boost, especially after the difficulties of the past season.

That boost could come tonight with an upset of fourth-ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

"It would be mighty big if we were to win it," Bowden said.

Bowden's team encountered a multitude of problems in 2002, including a missed field goal as time expired that would have beaten top-ranked Miami, a season-ending injury to tailback Greg Jones and the dismissal of quarterback Adrian McPherson.

Now, the Seminoles must prove they can overcome the suspensions of two starters, quarterback Chris Rix and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.

"Everybody's talking about adversity," senior defensive end Alonzo Jackson said. "I believe, yes, we had some bad things happen to us, but they've happened to us for the past two years. So if we're not ready to just step up to the plate and just put that behind us and go out there and play, what kind of team are we?"

But there's adversity and there's uncertainty.

With Fabian Walker, the Seminoles enter the Sugar Bowl with an untested, inexperienced quarterback. Bowden said he has no idea what to expect from Walker, a sophomore who has never logged a down for Florida State in a game in which the outcome was in doubt.

Walker said it'll be important for him to get off to a quick start. "That's something I'm going to try to do very hard," he said.

Still, fans and analysts have their doubts about Walker, in particular, and the Seminoles, in general. Georgia (12-1) is favored by eight points, a line that climbed from 2 1/2 after Rix was suspended.

The Bulldogs' only loss came at the hands of Florida, a team Florida State handily defeated Nov. 30.

"As players, we don't take them lightly," Georgia quarterback David Greene said. "Most everybody who's saying it should be a pushover game, they don't watch film.

"We definitely know they're capable of beating us."

After losing the 2001 Orange Bowl to Oklahoma, the Seminoles' doubts seemed to linger in their subsequent offseason and last year's 8-4 mark. A loss to Georgia could give rise to similar doubts.

"If we lose the game, it might not be spoken, but a lot of guys will have it in the back of their head," freshman tailback Leon Washington said.

Josh Robbins is a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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