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PASS RUSH MUST GET BETTER

Senior LB Dekoda Watson lived up to a captain's responsibility and shouldered the blame for the defense's nearly nonexistent pass rush in Monday's opening loss to Miami.

"I was thoroughly disappointed in my performance," he said. "When I had the opportunity to make a play, I didn't make the most of it."

Yes, he had a sack of Jacory Harris, but Watson burst into the backfield on a blitz on two other occasions and couldn't drop Harris. The Seminoles finished with just the one sack and, officially, no quarterback hurries.

Coach Bobby Bowden called the pass rush, by both teams, probably the worst in college football history. But for the Seminoles, when you couple limited pressure with an inexperienced secondary forced to stick with speedy receivers longer, well, the result was predictable.

The 'Canes put up 386 yards passing in their stirring 38-34 win.

"We blew a couple coverages and let a guy just walk down the field for a gimme touchdown," Bowden said. "You can't beat Miami doing that."

How about Jacksonville State and former LSU QB Ryan Perrilloux this weekend? Or BYU's Max Hall on Sept. 19. Or USF's Matt Grothe on Sept. 26? Or ... You get the picture.

Short of gambling and blitzing en masse on every down (and the Seminoles blitzed the 'Canes frequently), what can they do to improve what once was the hallmark of the defense?

It begins with correcting botched assignments and finishing plays the right way. It might mean going even younger up front, turning more to freshmen ends Brandon Jenkins and Toshmon Stevens. Maybe senior DE Kevin McNeil can harness his potential, finally. Maybe the tackles need to get more penetration.

"We have to become a lot more aggressive,'' freshman DT Jacobbi McDaniel said. "We have to do whatever it takes to get to that quarterback. I don't want to say nasty as illegal, but we have to get better.''

"We're going to get the job done," added Watson. "I promise you we're going to get the job done. I don't like being embarrassed. I don't like losing. I don't like to see my team upset.

"I don't like being a leader and trying to motivate everybody to pick their heads up because it shouldn't have to be that way. We're going to work our butts off, and I guarantee that it's going to be a new football team coming out this Saturday."

Haven't we seen this before?: As they did a year ago, the 'Canes took advantage of FSU's kickoff coverage (six returns for 181 yards) and far too often started with a short field. As if FSU's defense didn't have enough trouble.

Bowden, however, said he's confident freshman Dustin Hopkins has the leg strength to put more kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. He had just one on Monday.

"One of the reasons I was recruited out of high school so highly was because of my kickoffs,'' Hopkins said. "I didn't do as well as I can. Hopefully, I'll hit the ball a lot better. I wasn't hitting the part of my foot I usually like.''

You might also see a change in strategy. On FSU's final kickoff, after taking a 34-31 lead, the coaches had Hopkins hit a line drive they figured wouldn't be picked up right away. Miami only had a 4-yard return, but it fielded it at the 33.

"We wouldn't do that again," Bowden said.

Fame game: Former All-America DE Reinard Wilson headlines a group of seven whowill be inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame on Friday night. Joining Wilson, who had 351/2 sacks during his career and helped the Seminoles win the 1993 national title, are: Mike Augustine (baseball), Jeff Bray (track), Danielle Cox (softball), Cecile Reynaud (volleyball coach), Bob Shave (golf) and Dennis Boyle (as the Moore-Stone Award winner for his contributions as an assistant athletic director and chairman of Seminole Boosters).

He said it: "How good is Miami? I'm hoping they're real good because if they are, we are, too. Both of us are trying to get back to the top." - Bowden on what he learned from the opener.

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347. Check his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/seminoles.

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