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FSU hopes to avoid a letdown

He has been down this path so many times that Bobby Bowden knows every little crevice along the way: Lose to Miami, then try to figure out a way to get your players to put the disappointment behind in time for another game.

FSU's 19-16 loss to Miami on Saturday was the third in a row and seventh in eight games against the Hurricanes. For the second year in a row and third time in six years, the game came down to a final play that went Miami's way.

Bowden said he has noticed a big difference after this year's loss to Miami compared with last year's setback, when a 17-16 defeat in the 11th game all but knocked the Seminoles out of national-title consideration.

This year, there are still six games remaining. And the Seminoles now play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I didn't notice any problems (at practice)," Bowden said Tuesday of preparation for Saturday's noon game in Tallahassee against ACC foe North Carolina. "There are all kinds of differences between now and a year ago. (Last year) it was after a spring and fall of being told you were No.

1 and looking like you were going to reach your objective. Then you lose. That letdown was tremendous.

"This is early in the year, we have a conference championship to play for, and they've been through it. The aftermath is maybe not as bad. I was very pleased with their attitude."

"We have got to get refocused," defensive end Carl Simpson said. "It's not over. We had no goals after we lost last year. This year, we can win the conference. We've got to go out there and play hard."

The Seminoles (4-1 overall, 4-0 ACC) will try to rebound against the Tar Heels (4-1, 1-1), whose victories have come against less-than-impressive Wake Forest, Furman, Army and Navy. The lone defeat was to rival North Carolina State (27-20), a team FSU defeated 34-13. The Wolfpack is also the only team with a winning record that UNC has played.

Bowden has lost 12 times to the Hurricanes, and his teams are 6-5 in games after those defeats. In fact, in each of the last two years, the Seminoles lost their next game after Miami following an open date _ but both were on the road against ranked opponents (Auburn in 1990, Florida last year).

From 1985-88, FSU won the following game after losing to Miami by a combined score of 211-65. The opponents those years _ South Carolina twice and Southern Mississippi twice _ were not ranked.

"It doesn't mean very much when the team doesn't win, but the loss to Miami is different this time," FSU receiver Matt Frier said. "We have to remember the season isn't over. We can still win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and maybe get ourselves in position to do something at the end of the season. It would be worse if we don't realize what we still have ahead of us and get ourselves back on the right track."

Bowden has handled these losses to Miami with aplomb _ "I've been in this thing too long; I just learn to live with it," he said _ but there is one aspect that obviously annoys him: The idea that Miami's players have more "heart" or want to win the game "more" than his players.

"That really gets me, because at the end of the game, they're hanging on the ropes," Bowden said Tuesday. "At least our kids come back."

At his weekly booster luncheon Monday, Bowden was not impressed with the argument that the Hurricanes "knew" they were going to win, despite the fact that Dan Mowrey's 39-yard field goal _ he already had connected from 22, 38 and 41 yards _ with no time remaining would have tied the game.

"I really get upset when I hear them talking about having more heart," he said. "All I saw were big walleyed looks on their kids' faces when we were lining up for the field goal. Our kids showed the fortitude to come back. We were the ones pushing them.

"I hate to be proud in defeat. But I was proud of our players."