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Rix injury may settle quarterback controversy

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden anticipated the first question and provided a vintage answer.

"Men, I'll let you vote on what to do with the quarterback (position) and then I'll go opposite," he quipped at the start of his Sunday morning news conference.

For Bowden and the Seminoles, call it Decision 2004.

Should he go with the incumbent, Chris Rix, or a popular, young challenger, Wyatt Sexton?

"It's a good problem," Bowden said.

At least it appears that way now. Sexton, in his first extended and meaningful playing time, completed 17-of-26 for 162 yards and a touchdown and committed no turnovers in a 41-22 win against Clemson.

"However, it might not be a problem," Bowden said. "It might be cut and dried for you."

Rix sustained a high sprain to his right ankle in the first quarter Saturday and didn't return, though he told Bowden he could still play. Bowden said he'll meet with his trainer today to see the extent of Rix's injury and if he can play against North Carolina. Rix was on crutches Sunday and teammates said the ankle was badly swollen and discolored.

"I'm not interested in playing a guy who can't play 100 percent," Bowden said, adding a less-than-100 percent player can be a backup. "If he can play and Chris is fine, then I'll meet with my staff and get their feeling on it and decide from there what to do."

If Rix is healthy?

"That's the one you try to avoid as long as you can," he said. "I don't know, but it's something that we definitely will consider, what to do about it. It's (the question) not like it ain't there."

Consider: Bowden brought Rix to his office after the Miami game and told him he might bench him against Alabama-Birmingham. He changed his mind, and Rix did well enough to keep the job.

Consider also that the Tar Heels (2-2) are struggling and should be prohibitive underdogs, especially the way the FSU defense is playing. So, letting Sexton, a third-year sophomore, start for the first time would provide a further barometer of his preparedness and seemingly couldn't hurt.

"I hope I have the opportunity to start," Sexton said. "I'd love to have the team in my hands. I think I'm capable of taking this team to the national championship."

MORE QB QUESTIONS: The ripple effects of Rix's injury extend beyond Sexton and likely will force another decision:

If Rix can't serve as backup, the coaches will have to prepare one of their heralded freshmen, former Land O'Lakes star Drew Weatherford or Xavier Lee. Bowden said it probably would be Weatherford, who has the advantage of having played under center in high school and not predominantly in the shotgun as Lee did.

"If Chris can't go this week, he'd probably start getting a lot of reps," he said. "With eight games left, we'd have to start working him if Chris can't go."

I CAN'T WATCH: Kicker Xavier Beitia, the Jesuit grad who had two kickoffs returned for touchdowns and tried to tackle a blocker and not Justin Miller, said today's film session is "going to be horrible."

The kicking woes _ Miller set an NCAA record with 282 yards on six kickoff returns _ weren't all his fault. A swirling wind made kicking unpredictable and prevented him from booting the ball into the end zone. Miller's first score, a 97-yard return, was the first kickoff of the season Beitia had not sent into the end zone.

INJURY REPORT: Safety Kyler Hall strained his neck in the first half and didn't return. He will have X-rays and an MRI, likely today.

STAT TALK: The Seminoles converted 9 of 20 third downs against the Tigers; they entered the game 6-of-30.

_ BRIAN LANDMAN, Times staff writer

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