While Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke was surrounded by television cameras in the locker room after last Saturday's 54-7 rout of Clemson, senior linebackers Tommy Polley and Brian Allen dressed alone. Given the way Weinke & Co. steamrolled the Tigers for 771 yards, it was easy to overlook the play of the Florida State defense, which held an offense that had been gaining 476.7 yards per game to 260.
Polley and Allen are the heart of the nation's sixth-ranked defense, but they might have spent the game against Clemson in street clothes were they not made of "some unusually hard stuff," as Seminoles trainer Randy Oravetz put it Allen, who pulled his right calf in practice four days before the game, made three tackles from his strong side position, while Polley, who tore the ACL in his left knee while chasing down Michael Vick in last year's Sugar Bowl and was questionable for this season, contributed 4� tackles from the weak side. Allen and Polley rank first and third on the team, with 79 and 69 tackles, respectively, and are two of the 11 semifinalists for the Butkus Award. "If fair was fair they'd split that trophy down the middle," says freshman linebacker Kendyll Pope.
Told that it might take a year for his knee to heal after surgery last February, Polley, who at a sinewy 6'5", 233 pounds moves like a basketball player, returned in 7� months, thanks to rigorous rehabilitation. Though Polley isn't yet 100%, his favorite line is, "Injury? What injury?"
The 6'2", 225-pound Allen, who didn't practice after his injury and was listed as doubtful for the Clemson game, made a remarkable recovery of his own. "I walked into the locker room before the game," says coach Bobby Bowden, "and there was Brian in full uniform. He was fixing to play. I couldn't believe it."
The day before the game, linebackers coach Joe Kines worried about the ability of his defense—especially without Allen—to keep up with the Tigers' mobile, no-huddle offense. But the Seminoles neutralized the passing of quarterbacks Woodrow Dantzler and Willie Simmons and limited Clemson to 95 yards on the ground. "I'd say we dominated," said Polley.