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October 24, 2005

Florida State freshmen enjoy coming out party



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DURHAM, N.C. - Third-string tailback Antone Smith spent the previous two games on the sidelines watching veterans Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker handle most of the load for Florida State. He accepted it as part of his learning curve as a freshman.

But when the Seminoles traveled to Duke, Smith figured he would get his chance. He wanted to be prepared.

"I'm thankful anytime I get the ball," he said. "I'm just ready to be that guy now."

Smith got his opportunity even earlier than he could have expected, joining freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford and the rest of the starters midway through the third quarter. At the time, the Seminoles' lead was down to 10 points, and they needed to respond to an impressive drive by the Blue Devils.

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden decided Smith might be the answer.

"I didn't think that our other tailbacks were running very well. I felt like they were dancing too much and trying to pick their way through the line too much," Bowden said. "We were determined to get him in the ballgame more, and we felt like we would be able to. He responded."

Weatherford connected with Smith on a screen for a 9-yard gain on the first play of the decisive drive, and Smith later had all five rushes, including a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Seminoles a 31-14 lead.

Yet he wasn't the only first-year player to shine on the possession. Rod Owens had his only catch of the game, a 26-yarder to move the ball into Duke's territory, and Greg Carr set up Smith's score with a 20-yard reception.

The freshmen accounted for all 73 yards of offense on the drive, and Florida State went on to win 55-24 Saturday.

"The freshmen on our team are amazing, and I'm really excited about our future," Weatherford said. "Antone showed you that he is strong and fast."

Carr's effort hardly was surprising. He came into the game leading the Atlantic Coast Conference with five touchdown catches, and he added three more to his total against the Blue Devils.

Smith, on the other hand, had only 14 carries all season while playing in only three of the first six games. Most of his playing time came in a lopsided victory over Division I-AA The Citadel, but as Bowden said, Smith responded in this one.

In the fourth quarter, after Duke had gotten within 41-21, the Seminoles faced fourth-and-2 from near midfield. Bowden decided to go for it with Smith, calling for a pitch that the Blue Devils appeared to know was coming.

At least three defenders were in the backfield, but Smith shrugged off those tacklers and two more near the line of scrimmage. He broke through and headed down the sidelines, leaving only cornerback Deonto McCormick to stop him.

They collided near the goal line, and Smith plowed through to score his second touchdown of the day.

"That just came from nowhere," he said. "We needed to get a first down, and I just did what I had to do get it."

With the victory, Florida moved up one spot to No. 10 in The Associated Press' media poll released Sunday, while Duke was left hoping its future might be better, too.

Freshman Requan Boyette rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Ronnie Drummer added 77 yards on only two carries and also had a 60-yard kickoff return. Joe Surgan, another first-year player, kicked a career-long 47-yard field goal.

It was another loss, but it also was progress.

"You know, when you look at the final scoreboard, you might not see that," Blue Devils coach Ted Roof said. "If you watched the game and you felt the game, our guys made some strides. I am not happy and I am not satisfied with the loss, but we are going to go back to work and correct the mistakes, accentuate the positives and build off those."

For more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles, check out Warchant.com.


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