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Short gambles pay off

When faced with short yardage, Florida State refused to proceed with caution against Alabama-Birmingham.

On seven occasions Saturday night, the Seminoles went for it on fourth and 1, and each time they converted, including twice at the goal line for touchdowns.

On the game's first drive, FSU quarterback Chris Rix leapt over the top of the line from inside the 1 for a touchdown. Then fullback James Coleman scored on fourth and goal from the 1 early in the second quarter to put the Seminoles ahead 17-0.

But it was the conversions the 'Noles made in the middle third of the field, some from the edge of kicker Xavier Beitia's range _ his career best is 52 yards _ that showed the mettle of an offense that was nearly stagnate Sept. 10 against Miami.

"We ran the ball very effectively, and we needed that to build the confidence of our line and the confidence of our running backs," said Rix, who converted twice on fourth down. "You need to be able to execute those kind of plays when you need a half yard or yard, so tonight was a great time to practice that."

Florida State showed little hesitation in keeping its offense on the field, despite being at the UAB 25 or deeper on five of its fourth-and-1 attempts. The Seminoles punted only once, and that came when facing fourth and 29 near midfield. They failed on fourth and 10 in the second quarter.

"It was so darn short, sometimes it was just inches. We felt like we could make it," coach Bobby Bowden said. "It was evident that I did not want to give that football up."

And the play-calling showed faith in the defense.

"When they (the offense) go for it on fourth down, it is showing us so much," defensive tackle Travis Johnson said. "They have confidence in us that if we don't make it, the defense is going to stop them and get us the ball back."

The Seminoles' success on fourth down also aided Beitia, a Jesuit grad, who made 2-of-3 field goals. His two conversions came on drives in which FSU converted fourth-and-short plays. His miss was from 49 yards.

The Seminoles used runs up the gut and lateral cuts, utilizing fullbacks Coleman and B.J. Dean, and tailbacks Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker in addition to Rix, in what might amount to a short-yardage tryout for future games.

"The coaches can keep that in their pocket for the rest of the year that if we need a yard or less on fourth down, we can go for it and we can get it," Rix said.