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Seminoles backs move to the swing

Though the running stats are underwhelming, the swing pass has produced big numbers for Travis Minor and Jeff Chaney.

At first glance, the Florida State running backs have resembled the motorists on U.S. 19 during rush hour: at a frustrating standstill.

Seniors Travis Minor and Jeff Chaney have combined for 103 yards on 41 rushing attempts in two games, a paltry 2.5-yard average. As a team, FSU is averaging 65.0 yards on the ground. Quarterback Chris Weinke, who never will be mistaken for the fleet-footed Michael Vick, has the longest run from scrimmage, 21 yards.

With North Carolina bringing the nation's stingiest run defense to town for the No. 2-ranked Seminoles' home opener Saturday afternoon, folks naturally assume the ground game will resemble gridlock.

But ease off the horn for a second.

Last weekend at Georgia Tech, the Seminoles, borrowing a page from other pass-happy teams, effectively used the swing pass to Minor and Chaney in the flat as a pseudo-running play.

"It's kind of like an option, really," coach Bobby Bowden said.

Minor had seven catches, a team high, for 89 yards, giving him a not-too-shabby 130 total yards. Chaney carried two swing passes for 22 yards.

"Travis turned the corner a couple of times," offensive coordinator Mark Richt said. "He jumped over a guy, and he did some nice things. That was good to see. Teams like Louisiana Tech and Purdue, that's what they do in lieu of handing off into the belly. They just swing it out there and let the guys block for them.

"If you get 4 or 5 yards, it doesn't seem like much of a pass, but if you run the ball up the middle and get 4 or 5 yards, everybody's happy. What's the difference? I'm personally not that caught up in it. Some people, purists or traditionalists or whatever you want to call them, think you absolutely have to run the ball to win. That's wrong. What did the Rams do last year?"

Super Bowl champion St. Louis got the ball into tailback Marshall Faulk's hands in a variety of ways, conventional handoffs as well as short passes that allowed him to parlay his speed and strength into big plays. Or at least first downs.

"We more or less were taking what they gave us," Minor said of the strategy that worked so well last week.

"They're great because when you see a lot of people rushing upfield thinking it's a pass because we're a passing team, the next thing you know, that swing pass comes out there," offensive tackle Char-ron Dorsey said. "If everybody gets a hat on who he's supposed to get it on, it'll go for a long way."

In center Jarad Moon's mind, the swing pass is nothing more than an "elongated sweep," a play that can be sprung for big yardage but one that hasn't worked exceptionally well of late.

That's one reason Minor hasn't rushed for 100 yards in his past six games.

"We haven't been executing the way we should," Minor said. "One bad block or one missed assignment can take it away from you."

It's the bad block, the missed assignment, that has been grounding the run, especially when the Seminoles go against eight men camped out in the box or reach the opponents' 20-yard line and the defense has less real estate to defend.

"I would say that's the weak point of our offensive line," tackle Tarlos Thomas said. "If we expect to win the national championship, we must punch the ball in from the red zone."

The Seminoles did that once against Georgia Tech with three straight-ahead runs from the 4, and they must continue to be able to do that. But Bowden stressed that his linemen are more concerned with pass protection than run blocking, and few can do both well.

"The best thing we do is throw and catch right now," he said. "I've heard so many complaints about running, which don't bother me because I see what's happening. If you were in the Miss America contest and you were a great singer, you wouldn't go up there and try to win it by dancing. You'd go ahead and sing."

Or swing (pass)?

Why not?

"I don't (consider it a run), but it's fun," Minor said. "I wouldn't substitute it, but I'll gladly take it as an addition."