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Another shaky QB, another irked coach

When the day started, his coach was trying to take the offense off Danny Kanell's shoulders. By the time it ended, Bobby Bowden was threatening to take it out of Kanell's hands.

This is what it is like to quarterback a major-college football team in this state: football in the extremity.

It is no longer enough to win almost all of them. Any loss is too many. Pretty good doesn't do it. There is no such thing as growing into a job. The hook is always close, the backup is always loose, the pressure is always building.

It doesn't matter if you are Frank Costa at Miami or Terry Dean at Florida. After Saturday, it no longer matters if you are Kanell at FSU, either.

The continuing dissatisfaction between coach and quarterback at the state schools continued Saturday, when Bowden expressed disappointment in _ and talked of possible replacement of _ Kanell after the Seminoles' sluggish 17-0 victory over Clemson.

It wasn't that Kanell was terrible against Clemson. His sin was not being terrific. For Kanell, this made for two sub-par games in a row, and Bowden immediately began to seek out his options.

"I'm going to take a long, hard look, even if I have to go with a little freshman," Bowden said. "Danny will learn from this, or we'll go on to the next quarterback. If our quarterback had thrown the ball the way he was supposed to, I think we were going to have a pretty good day."

Bowden's feeling of urgency is understandable. Because of the schedule remaining (Notre Dame, Florida, possibly Colorado or Nebraska in the Orange Bowl), the Seminoles have an outside chance to get back in the national title hunt. But not playing like this. Not sputtering and stammering as they move close to a goal line.

But even if you buy Bowden's frustrations, his hints at pulling his quarterback are too rash, too soon. Look at his options: the backup quarterback, Jon Stark, hasn't looked any better (5 of 14 passes and no points the past two games) than Kanell. And Bowden said Thad Busby, the freshman he spoke of, had trouble handling the playbook against Miami.

In other words, if FSU is going to make a serious run, it will be with Kanell at the helm.

That said, Kanell has more to prove than ever. Against Miami two weeks earlier, Kanell tried too hard to force a play and threw interceptions. Against Clemson, Kanell went the other direction and became overly cautious. He would move the Seminoles goalward, then the offense would stall.

That, Bowden confessed, was partly his fault.

"I hadn't talked about interceptions all year," Bowden said. "I would talk about cutting down turnovers, but you're afraid to say interceptions. Your quarterback might go into a shell and try too hard not to throw them.

"This week, I talked about not throwing interception. And we were too dadgummed cautious. We just quit throwing the ball. The only thing I can see is that he's lost confidence throwing the ball. I've got him tentative."

The thing is, Kanell has Bowden tentative, too. FSU came out Saturday as if it were trying to win the way a team like, say, Alabama, wins. Behind a running game and a defense and an offense that scores just enough.

FSU ran five of its first six plays, four of its first five first downs. The Seminoles ran on third and 6, on second and 24, on third and 11. All of this was fallout from the Miami game, where FSU overloaded Kanell and he struggled. In the two weeks since, there have been crank calls and comments, and the seat underneath Kanell has grown hotter.

Now this. Now Kanell has had two bad games in a row. Now he must climb out of a deeper hole.

"There are high standards here, but that's why I chose FSU," Kanell said. He sat at his locker, trying to agree with what Bowden said without admitting that he had shaky confidence.

"My confidence is the same," he said. "Maybe what he said was in the back of my mind. I was too cautious on some throws. I'm not at all pleased with the way I played. I think a lot of it was timing. We had only played one game in the last three weeks."

For the record, Kanell hit 17 of 32 passes for 181 yards. He led his team into scoring territory on six of 10 possessions (FSU missed three field goals). He missed some passes around the goal, but it didn't seem like a performance where a quarterback would have go out and win his job all over again. At least not anywhere else.

In this state, however, it is not simply enough to win today. You must give the impression that you will win tomorrow, too. The only question is whether you are good or whether you are gone.

And for Kanell, there is no answer. Only the clear knowledge that even if his confidence is not shaken, his coach's is.