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That started a spate of late-night long-distance phone calls that went on for the remainder of the week. Floyd called Hurricane defensive tackle Dwayne Johnson and said, "Get ready for me. I'm coming." Floyd also exchanged some trash with Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp. "I've never heard of anything like it," Bowden said. "I don't know why they do it. I don't know what they say to each other. I don't want to know."
One curious feature of the rivalry is that while the two teams taunt, they do not brawl. The reason may be the sheer importance of the occasion. "This is the big money game," Vanover said last week. NFL scouts are watching. In the last six years a staggering 87 players from Miami and Florida State have been drafted by the NFL. "We're a special breed of player," Floyd said. "Stars are made—it's the driving point of the whole game."
With all that at stake, it was of incalculable value to the Seminoles to finally come out the winner. They discovered that this year they are more resourceful, more experienced, more disciplined and more talented than Miami. Florida State's offense had scored only one touchdown on the Hurricanes in two years. A year ago Ward was sacked seven times; the year before that, Seminole quarterback Casey Weldon was sacked five times.
Last week the Florida State coaches cured the offensive linemen of caving in by forcing them to watch the seven sacks of Ward on film after every meeting, every day. The result was that Ward was sacked only once on Saturday and had a few more seconds of protection—just enough time to connect on 21 of 31 passes for 256 yards with no interceptions. He succeeded under a typically relentless Miami rush, completing throws even in the grip of defenders. "My heart was in my stomach every time they snapped the ball," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson.
Indeed, the biggest difference between the two teams was in their quarterbacks. In comparison with Ward, who produced 450 yards of offense, the Hurricanes' Frank Costa was ineffectual. "He didn't look like the head man," said Abraham. Costa, who's a junior, had been hailed in Miami as the successor to last year's Heisman winner, Gino Torretta, but because of his inconsistency he is being pressed by Collins, who replaced him two weeks ago in a victory over Georgia Southern.
Costa accounted for Miami's lone touchdown against Florida State, a six-yard pass to running back Donnell Bennett in the first quarter, but he yielded a fumble and the Bush interception. Costa also seemed to have trouble with his checks at the line. In the third quarter he engineered a 16-play drive that ate up 8:06 and reached the Florida State six. But on third-and-goal Costa's audible just before the snap wasn't clear to his intended receiver, Bennett, who ran the wrong pattern, and Costa threw incomplete. The Hurricanes settled for Dane Prewitt's 23-yard field goal with 14:07 left. It would be their last score. "In the past we won with big plays," Costa said. "This time they didn't give them to us."
Bowden could take satisfaction in the knowledge that his assistant coaches outperformed their counterparts as well. Because the two teams' talent was, until this year, largely equal, blame for the Seminoles' last two losses to Miami had fallen on the kickers and the coaches. That was one reason for Bowden's decision, a week after last year's defeat, to turn over the bulk of the play-calling to his offensive coordinator, Brad Scott, an advocate of the no-huddle shotgun offense that suits Ward's talents so well. Since then Bowden has refused to wear a headphone—"So I don't try to change the calls," he said last week. A manager wearing a pair of phones follows Bowden around, informing him of each play. "Then he gets away from me," Bowden said.
Bowden was responsible, as always, for major decisions and the most innovative schemes, including the most startling play of the day—a direct snap to tailback Warrick Dunn instead of to Ward. Bowden had been imploring his staff all season to use the play, which is simply called "direct." On Friday he slapped his hand on the meeting table and said, "I want to see that danged direct."
Bowden got his wish toward the end of the first quarter, when the Seminoles faced third-and-seven at their own 43-yard line. Dunn took the angled snap and broke across the line for 27 yards to sustain the drive. It culminated in Ward's two-yard score, which gave Florida State a 21-7 lead.
For all their power, however, the Seminoles showed weaknesses. They were soft against the run, yielding 127 yards, which means they could be vulnerable to Notre Dame's ball-control attack. Miami held the ball for two lengthy drives: a 15-play, 5:56 march in the second period that came to nothing, and the 16-play, 8:06 marathon that ended with Prewitt's field goal. These efforts, though largely fruitless, suggested that the best way to beat Ward is to keep him off the field.