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Flee a hurricane, catch a ballgame

Florida State president T.K. Wetherellknew demand could far exceed supply, but that didn't stop him.

With thousands of Hurricane Ivan evacuees in town from the Panhandle, he and school officials made available 1,500 complimentary tickets to the Alabama-Birmingham game on a first-come, first-served basis. Fans were limited to two each but "there would be more than we could seat if they all showed up," he said.

"It's a gesture and there will be some people who will take it in," he said before the game. "The bigger gesture was from some of our boosters who said, "Take my (hotel) room; take my tickets.' "

Officials said 1,400 tickets were picked up to help bolster the announced crowd of 81,825.

FRESHMAN IMPACT: FSU freshman linebacker Jae Thaxton burst around the right end and laid out perfectly to block a UAB punt in the opening minute of the second quarter, setting up his team's second touchdown. It was the Seminoles' first blocked punt since defensive end Chauncey Davis had one against Colorado on Sept. 20 and the first by a true freshman since Marcello Church(Lakewood) had one in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1, 2002.

REAL LOSS: FSU fullback Joe Surratt's house in Pace was damaged when Ivan's powerful winds sent a tree crashing into it. His family had evacuated and was safe, but the freshman did go home for a day. He was in uniform Saturday night.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Heralded FSU sophomore linebacker Ernie Sims, sophomore middle linebacker Buster Davisand sophomore guard Cory Niblock made their first starts.

HE'S BACK: FSU senior safety B.J. Ward, who nursed a shoulder injury through much of preseason workouts and had not been cleared academically to play in the opener, was okay on both fronts Saturday.

LEADING THE WAY: FSU junior fullback B.J. Dean led his teammates onto the field against UAB. Dean is one of two players, the only one who plays, from Alabama (Tuscaloosa).

WELCOME ADDITIONS: As FSU continues decorating the lobby of the renovated Moore Athletic Center, it finally added two Waterford crystal footballs that came with finishing No. 1 in the coaches poll in the 1993 and 1999 seasons. Not the originals, which were stolen a few months ago, but new ones made in England.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Bobby Bowdenhad a busy Friday night. In addition to attending the school's Hall of Fame ceremony, in which two of his greatest defensive players, Peter Boulware and Andre Wadsworth, were inducted, he took in the first half of the FSU-Clemson women's soccer game. His granddaughter, Jacquelyn Hines, (daughter of the former Robyn Bowdenand Clemson assistant coach Jack Hines) played for the Tigers. She received a red card in the second half of Clemson's 2-1 loss.

SPEAKING OF HALL : Boulware, a standout linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens, said it was all too fitting he and Wadsworth were inducted into the school's Hall of Fame together.

"We were roommates," he said. "It's just a privilege and I'm just glad to be here. A lot of people helped me get here and I just want to say thank you to them."

Like Boulware, Wadsworth said the most special part of his FSU experience was the relationships he built.

"I built a lot of relationships here," said Wadsworth, whose promising NFL career was cut short by injuries. "I just didn't leave them behind when I left. I kept them and I treasure them."

_ BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writer