Florida State offensive tackle Alex Barron has played essentially a half dozen significant downs in his career, all coming in the final minute Saturday.
But his role against Florida has been supersized since junior Brett Williams is out with an injured knee.
"I'm excited; anybody would be excited to have his first start in a collegiate game in one of the biggest games (of the year)," Barron said. "I have to go out and do what I have to do. I feel like I'm pretty prepared. I just have to brush up on a lot of things and be a little sharper this week."
A little? Barron, a 6-foot-6, 302-pound redshirt freshman who has played briefly against Duke, Alabama-Birmingham and Virginia, must block star defensive end Alex Brown.
Williams, for one, is confident his understudy can fill in admirably.
"He's a better athlete than I am," said Williams, who added he will try to give Barron pointers about playing in a charged environment like The Swamp. "It's just a matter if he can keep his head on straight. He seems pretty cool. He doesn't seem like somebody who let's pressure get to him. I think he's going to be fine."
The Seminoles and the Gators have been renowned for their passing games, but don't rush to any judgments about that facet of the offense being the key. Interestingly enough, the team that has gained more yards rushing has won 11 of the last 13 meetings.
Season FSU UF Result
Atts Yds Atts Yds
1990 39 156 40 133 FSU, 45-30
1991 26 37 39 117 UF, 14-9
1992 32 140 30 41 FSU, 45-24
1993 35 120 15 -33 FSU, 33-21
1994 27 98 30 85 31-31 tie
1994+ 30 76 29 5 FSU, 23-17
1995 27 138 40 94 UF, 35-24
1996 35 183 28 81 FSU, 24-21
1996+ 21 42 43 168 UF, 52-20
1997 34 141 31 163 UF, 32-29
1998 51 150 20 17 FSU, 23-12
1999 38 116 22 62 FSU, 30-23
2000 29 90 20 37 FSU, 30-7
+ Sugar Bowl
For years, some folks have criticized Florida's Steve Spurrier for running up the score on lesser opponents. He had Rex Grossman throw deep with the Gators comfortably ahead of South Carolina 40-10 in the fourth quarter. Uh, make that 47-10.
Bowden isn't among that group.
"I've never worried about it and I can't ever remember complaining about it when it got real bad," he said. "I felt like it was my fault. Something I'm not doing to allow somebody to score that many points."
Like Spurrier, Bowden said any coach needs his backups to gain experience running the scheme in game situations. He also hates to tell hard-working players who might never ascend to star status to merely "take a knee" when they get into a game, perhaps denying them their one moment that will last a lifetime.
But if he's not thinking about the Gators throwing for the end zone even if they have Saturday's game well in hand, his players are.
"To be honest with you, I think if Steve Spurrier has a chance to run the score up, he probably will," sophomore defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "We beat him the last three years. He knows no mercy...He'd love to do that against Florida State."
Bobby Bowden couldn't believe it.
The first update he heard Saturday night from Florida-South Carolina was that coach Lou Holtz's Gamecocks were ahead 10-3.
"By the time I got home, Lou had another wrinkle on his face," Bowden said.
Sophomore quarterback Rex Grossman, the nation's top-rated passer, led the Gators to a 54-17 rout. The Gators scored on their first nine possessions. Rexman threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth before giving way to heralded backup Brock Berlin.
"South Carolina's been living off its defense; it's defense is one its strongest points," Bowden said. "I can't believe that."
Believe it, coach. The Gators lead the nation in passing offense (417.3 yards) and total offense (549.2) and are second in points (45.8). And the Seminoles' defense hasn't been able to stop anyone this season.
"I'll have some (more wrinkles), too," Bowden said.
"N.C. State put a good crash on our season. It's up to us to make Florida's season the same way. We have to go there and do something to Florida to make them work to get in a big bowl game. It's up to us."
_ Sophomore defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.
_ Compiled by Brian Landman