For the first half of the season, Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher leaned heavily on blossoming senior tight end Caz Piurowski in both the passing and running game.
But Piurowski, the former Land O'Lakes High standout, saw his season end when he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee on the opening drive against Georgia Tech on Oct. 10.
"Not having him is going to be a challenge," Fisher said as the team prepared for tonight's game at North Carolina, which boasts the ACC's stingiest defense. "We've got two very young, talented guys who can play there, and we have to get them ready quick."
They are sophomores Beau Reliford and Ja'Baris Little.
The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Reliford didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school at Coral Springs Academy and was better known as a basketball player. He was the MVP of the Class 5A state title game (21 points, nine rebounds) in Fort Lauderdale Dillard's win against Lakewood in 2008.
Reliford had two catches for 24 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown — his first — against Georgia Tech. For the season, he has four catches for 34 yards.
"This is a great opportunity for him now," Fisher said. "When he played in high school, they'd flex him out as a wideout and use his skill. What he's doing a much better job at is putting his face in there. He's learning to block. He's found out he likes it, and I think he does have a great future."
At 6-4, 226, Little, the former Tallahassee Lincoln High star, isn't as physically imposing as Reliford but is faster. He has one catch for 4 yards this season.
Familiar foe … sort of: Coach Bobby Bowden is 5-1 against UNC's Butch Davis, but all of those meetings came when Davis was at Miami (1995-2000).
Soccer town: Don't for a second call the women's soccer showdown against the defending national champion tonight in Tallahassee "the other Florida State-North Carolina" game. The Tar Heels (12-1-1, 5-1 ACC) are No. 2 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. FSU (11-2-1, 4-1-1) is No. 7.
"Some would use the cliche it's just another game, but I think that's a little bit foolish to think that," FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. "They've set the standard for excellence in women's soccer for years. If we want to be considered a top, elite level team, you have to perform and compete in a favorable manner against Carolina."
Overall, the Seminoles are 1-21-2 against the Tar Heels, who have won 19 of the NCAA's 27 national titles. But four of the past six games have gone to overtime, including last year's 2-2 tie in Chapel Hill.
"There's a lot of talent on both teams but teams that are absolutely opposites in philosophy," said Krikorian, whose team is 8-0 at home this season. "Carolina's going to try to make the game helter-skelter, as fast as it can be. And we take a little bit more conservative approach with a little more patience in the attack and a little bit more patience in defense. It's a great contrast in styles."
FSU will wear black jerseys for the first time at home in its version of a "Black Out" game.
Also, proceeds from the game will go to the Charlotte Moran Foundation. Moran, who helped promote and develop women's soccer for more than 20 years, died from pancreatic cancer in May.
“Charlotte Moran was a pioneer in the game," said Krikorian, who worked with her daughter, Desiree, at the University of Hartford and with Moran while with the WUSA's Philadelphia Charge. "Both teams want to promote Charlotte's Foundation and the legacy she left all of us."
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347. Read his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/seminoles.