The Answer Man
In his biggest test Marcus Outzen stumped Florida State's archrival
Marcus Outzen arrived on the Florida State campus in 1996 as an option quarterback, which is something like going to Casablanca for the waters. Outzen wasn't misinformed about the type of offense the Seminoles run; he just didn't care. He grew up a rabid Florida State fan in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Back home in a drawer are pictures of Marcus as a 10-year-old and as a 12-year-old with Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden. A year ago, had Outzen been any lower on the depth chart, he would have been playing intramurals. He spent most of this season mopping up behind Chris Weinke. Last Saturday, in his second start after a neck injury ended Weinke's season, all Outzen did was lead the Seminoles to a 23-12 victory over archrival Florida.
A redshirt sophomore, Outzen completed 13 of 22 passes for 167 yards and his first career touchdown. He ran twice for first downs on quarterback draws in the fourth quarter. He had three fumbles, including one in his own end zone that turned into a Gators safety. "I came to games here as a kid and watched the quarterbacks," Outzen said after Saturday's game. "I watched [Casey] Weldon, I watched [Charlie] Ward. I'm numb right now."
The steady breeze that blew through Doak Campbell Stadium may have been sighs of relief from Seminoles fans. Their attempts last week to buck up Outzen made the bright-red crew cut that had earned him the nickname Rooster all but stand on edge. "Everybody says, 'You can do it,' " Outzen said after last Thursday's practice. "I know they mean well. But when you hear it a hundred times a day, it gets repetitious. I know I can do it. You hear it so many times you wonder if they're so sure."
Bowden and quarterbacks coach Mark Richt handled Outzen gently. Every Friday, Richt gives his quarterbacks a written exam. Last week, he didn't bother to collect the answers. "I didn't care," Richt said. "I didn't want to do anything that would clutter his head." After the game the test answers sat on the floor of Outzen's locker. "I'm going to keep it," he said.
Outzen's success validated the hunch Bowden had when he signed him out of Fort Walton Beach High. Like Danny Wuerffel in 1991, Outzen had taken the Vikings to the Class 5A championship. "In Florida mat's pretty big," Bowden says. "He wasn't a high recruit. We just liked him. We felt he would be a backup quarterback, an athlete."
He's likely to return to his backup role next year, when Weinke is expected to be healthy again. In the meantime Outzen and the rest of the fourth-ranked, 11-1 Seminoles wait and hope to play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl. As Outzen sat at his locker and peeled off his uniform after last Saturday's game, wide receiver Peter Warrick ambled by. "Good game, Rooster," said Warrick, who not only caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown but also threw a 46-yard TD to Ron Dugans that put the Seminoles up by eight.
"Hey," Outzen said, as giddy as a 10-year-old who had just had his picture taken with Bobby Bowden, "I got my first TD."
"It's been a pleasure," Warrick said.
"It ain't over," Outzen replied.