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This time, the defenses won't rest // FSU

Standards changed, goals were placed at an attainable level, and they have given themselves something reasonable to reach.

No longer are Florida State defensive players talking about a goose egg, the ultimate prize. Nor do they dream of holding their opponent to a certain number of yards.

Instead, the Seminoles acknowledge the nightmare they are about to encounter on Saturday in Gainesville _ Florida's offense.

Lofty expectations have been replaced by a goal of avoiding embarrassment.

"(The Gators) almost did it last year," FSU linebacker Todd Rebol said. "It was 31-3. If it ended up like that, nobody would be talking to me right now.

"Their offense is just like our offense. Boom, and they score. We don't go in like we normally do, saying we're going to try for a shutout. Our goal is to outplay Florida's defense. We have to get turnovers, get some stops, give our offense a chance."

Florida led FSU 31-3 in the fourth quarter in 1994 before the Seminoles rallied for a 31-31 tie. Even in FSU's 23-17 victory in the Sugar Bowl, the Gators amassed more than 400 yards and had the Seminoles on their heels most of the night.

And that was an FSU defense that had three first-round NFL draft picks and two cornerbacks who also are playing in the NFL.

This year's defense has struggled to put it together all season. Injuries have been a nuisance. And although steadily getting better, the Seminoles have allowed more than 400 yards four times. Saturday against Maryland, they gave up 380 yards through the air.

But as FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said, "It's how many points you put on the board." Maryland scored just 17. And in the past five games, FSU has played strong in the second half, allowing a total of just 19 points.

And yet, Andrews is resigned to what could be coming from Florida, which is averaging 548 yards, including 360 passing, and 46 points.

"Nobody has really shut them down," Andrews said. "You're looking at an offense that is probably not going to get shut down. They're going to get points, move the football, get yards. You just hope you hold them enough to win the football game."

So how do you do that? The Gators themselves will tell you.

"Just like Vandy did a lot of times," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "Get pressure on the quarterback, get a guy in there, receivers drop some passes. There's all kinds of ways to stop an offense. But the way you stop most passing teams is to pressure the quarterback and cover the receivers downfield."

Being successful is another matter. In last year's Sugar Bowl, FSU made adjustments that enabled Rebol to put pressure on UF quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Rebol had two sacks, a career-high 11 tackles and caused a fumble.

But the Seminoles must also be concerned about a running game that features Elijah Williams, who leads the team in rushing and is averaging 7.7 yards, and Terry Jackson, a freshman who rushed for 119 yards in 17 carries in Florida's victory over Tennessee.

When a team is able to run on FSU _ as Virginia's Tiki Barber did, for 193 yards _ the Seminoles are much more vulnerable to the pass, because defensive backs get caught trying to stop running backs. Virginia quarterback Mike Groh threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns, including a 72-yarder, against FSU.

That will put pressure on FSU's defensive front to contain the run and also get to Wuerffel. Defensive ends Reinard Wilson and Peter Boulware, tackles Tyrant Marion, Julian Pittman, Greg Spires and Orpheus Roye, and nose guards Andre Wadsworth and Connell Spain form the nucleus of players who have improved this season.

FSU allowed just 98 rushing yards in the past seven games and is surrendering an average of 18.3 points. Last season the Seminoles allowed 16.6 points per game.

"When you play Florida, lining up in the right places is one of the hardest things to do," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "Last year, we played them here, we lined up in the wrong places, and they went straight down the field for a touchdown. If you had a poor quarterback, he might not find that guy, but that dad-gummed Wuerffel, he knows where they all are."

Other teams have used three and four receivers against the Seminoles. Maryland was the most successful, although the Terrapins threw mostly short passes out of their run-and-shoot offense to put pressure cornerbacks to make tackles. FSU's Samari Rolle came through with 15.

Florida's offense is even more difficult to stop because the Gators have a myriad of formations, speedy receivers and the threat of the deep ball.

"There's no secret," FSU safety Sean Hamlet said. "Steve Spurrier is going to throw the ball. We have to come up with something to slow them down. You don't stop Florida. We have to contain them, keep them out of the end zone."