- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2003

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Rix happens.

Aided by the atrocious performance of Florida State quarterback Chris Rix, No.2 Miami spanked the fifth-ranked Seminoles 22-14 yesterday in a game that was far more one-sided than the score indicated.

“People were counting us out as underdogs,” Miami sophomore defensive end Thomas Carroll said, referring to the Las Vegas line that tabbed the Hurricanes seven-point road dogs. “Of course, we took that personally. That’s crazy. How can you underestimate 29-1?”

That number represents the record, dating back to the start of the Larry Coker era (2001), the Hurricanes brought with them yesterday to Doak Campbell Stadium. But miraculous comebacks against pedestrian squads from Florida and West Virginia left plenty of questions about this season’s collection of ‘Canes (6-0). Combine those close calls with the seeming resurgence of the Seminoles (5-1) and the Tallahassee venue, and an upset seemed imminent.

But the experts and fools alike overlooked the X-factor. That’s “X” as in Rix and exasperating. Florida State’s junior quarterback always has had a nasty habit of underachieving in big games. But yesterday, with state pride and national title implications on the line, Rix authored his coup de disgrace.

This game was as much lost by Florida State as it was won by Miami. And the catalyst behind the ‘Noles’ no-show was Rix, who threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles in the first 33 minutes virtually to give the game to Miami.

“I don’t know if Rix will ever be able to adjust to the rain,” venerable Florida State coach Bobby Bowden bemoaned after watching his quarterback unravel en route to spotting Miami a 22-0 lead.

Rix, who was not available for comment afterward, is certainly no mudder. Steady showers turned Doak Campbell into the state’s true swampy stadium.

In the quarterback’s defense, it was a nasty day, and his offensive line was manhandled, giving him little time in the pocket. But in the four biggest games of his career (Miami the past three years and Notre Dame last season), Rix has thrown eight interceptions and fumbled four times against just four touchdown passes.

All told yesterday, Rix and his mates gave Miami the ball seven times (six times on their half of the field) during the game’s first 33 minutes. The implosion was nothing if not thorough, involving three fumbles, two interceptions, a blocked punt and a shanked kickoff that became an unintentional onside kick.

The result was that Miami’s offense, given a series of short fields, was able to score 16 points on six post-turnover possessions that yielded just 71 yards of offense and one first down.

“What I told the kids all week was that what will win this game are turnovers and the kicking game,” Bowden said. “We turned the ball over five times and had a kick blocked. That’s the story right there.”

And that story was largely written by Rix, who basically cemented the loss with the last two of those five turnovers. With the Seminoles already trailing 12-0 late in the second quarter courtesy of his gaffes, Rix chucked a first-down pass from his own 20 into two-deep coverage toward no discernible receiver. The ball fluttered lamely into the hands of Miami All-American Sean Taylor at midfield, and the hard-hitting free safety cruised the other way for a return touchdown that sucked what little life was left out of the record crowd of 84,336 fans.

“He threw up four or five I should have had,” said Taylor, who finished the day with four break-ups and two interceptions that raised his season total to a national-high six. “But I’m satisfied because we won. We heard how we were vulnerable and just came in here and took care of business.”

Florida State’s final turnover, a miserable pitch from Rix to tailback Leon Washington on the first possession of the second half, gave Miami the ball at the Florida State 11. Just as it did all day, the Seminoles’ defense stiffened. But John Peattie’s 19-yard field goal gave Miami a 22-0 lead with 11:26 remaining in the third quarter, and the ‘Canes coasted sloppily home.

The Miami victory not only sets up a mammoth Big East clash between the Hurricanes and No. 4 Virginia Tech (6-0) on Nov.1 in Blacksburg, Va., it also quiets the ‘Canes’ critics.

Said Taylor: “We’ve got no room for doubt. We work hard, prepare ourselves and show up ready to ball.”

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