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Expect shootout at high noon // FSU

Published Jul. 6, 2006

It's been referred to as the "fastbreak," "no-huddle" and "lightning," but the best way to describe Florida State's offense is "effective."

The Seminoles have averaged 50 points and 574 yards per game. Their scoring drives have averaged just 1 minute, 48 seconds. Even their worst performance was far from ordinary: 28 points and 546 yards.

"They are extremely precise," said Virginia defensive coordinator Rick Lantz, whose team did the best job of frustrating the Seminoles in a 33-28 FSU loss. "If their receivers are supposed to break off at 9 yards, they break off at 9 yards. They expect them to make catches, and they expect Danny (Kanell) to make great throws."

Therein lies the key to FSU's offense: the quarterback. With so much emphasis on the passing game, making reads at the line of scrimmage, and throwing to a choice of four or five receivers, Kanell must be clicking if sixth-ranked FSU is to defeat third-ranked Florida on Saturday.

For most of the season, Kanell has been outstanding. He set a school completion record (28-of-32, 87.5 percent) against North Carolina State. He has passed for more than 300 yards five times. He has thrown 31 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions.

But in his one poor performance, FSU lost. Kanell completed 32 passes for 454 yards against Virginia. But he needed 67 throws, a school record for attempts in a game. And he threw three interceptions.

"Their timing was off a little bit," Lantz said. "And their quarterback was a little off. Everything had to work right for us. We were not geniuses. We didn't come up with a new and unique way to shut them down. Danny has to make great throws in that offense, and you have to hope that they'll have a little bit of an off day."

But the Cavaliers did do something different. Seeing that most teams had difficulty getting pressure on Kanell, and that FSU did a good job of picking up blitzes, Lantz and his staff often elected to rush just three players. They put another defender in coverage. And the ACC's best secondary did a good job of blanketing FSU receivers.

Then when FSU went five straight possessions without a running play, it worked in Virginia's favor.

"They were rushing only three people," said FSU tailback Warrick Dunn, who has rushed for more than 100 yards seven times this season. "I said (to FSU coaches) that we can run the football. We should have run the football."

Said FSU center Clay Shiver: "I think the coaches got impatient. The problem was things had come so easy, even when we got behind, we were like, "Oh, we'll be fine.' Then their players started getting some confidence. They got momentum. And we couldn't get things going."

The Seminoles learned they had better be able to run the ball to be successful. Dunn is FSU's not-so-secret weapon, but in the three games he failed to get 100 yards, he never had more than 14 carries.

"I want to be a big factor," said Dunn, who is just 109 yards shy of Sammie Smith's school record (1,230 yards) for a season. "I want to make something happen, contribute."

But don't expect the Seminoles to keep giving Dunn the ball and try to win the time-of-possession battle. It would seem to be a good strategy against the Gators, who have an explosive offensive themselves. FSU has had the ball more time than opponents just four times this season. And it isn't a plan FSU coach Bobby Bowden embraces.

"To think you're going to eat up five minutes, go down and kick a field goal and beat them, you're mistaken," Bowden said.

Said Kanell: "If you try to control the clock, you get tentative. We have to open up the offense like we did in the Sugar Bowl and put points on the board."

So it will be much of what FSU fans have gotten used to this season. Spread the field, shotgun, lots of passing.

Two of Kanell's favorite targets are Andre Cooper and E.

G. Green. The two have combined for 24 touchdowns, 120 receptions and 1,960 yards.

Bowden said he has noticed Florida putting elements into its defense this year to try to better combat the shotgun, which FSU used so effectively in scoring 28 fourth-quarter points to tie the Gators last year.

And he expects the Gators to have a plan for Dunn, who killed them with a late touchdown reception two years ago and was the Sugar Bowl MVP with 58 yards rushing, 51 yards receiving and a 73-yard touchdown pass.

O, my!

The Gators and Seminoles have two of the nation's best offenses, and the numbers don't lie (national ranking in parenthesis):

FSU Florida

Scoring 508 points: 50.8 points 465 points: 46.5 points

per game (2nd) per game (3rd)

Total offense 574.5 yards per 548 yards per

game (1st) game (4th)

Passing offense 360.5 yards per 343.2 yards per

game (2nd) game (3rd)

Rushing offense 231.3 yards per 187.5 yards per

game (8th) game (38th)

Team record 9-1 10-0

AP ranking 6 3