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Florida State finds rushing game in rout of Rice

Sep 23, 2006 - 11:06 PM TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Ticker) -- Florida State finally flashed some offense.

Helped by a previously non-existent ground game, the 18th-ranked Seminoles found the end zone in the first half for the first time this season and rolled to a 55-7 victory over winless Rice.

Much-maligned Lorenzo Booker ran for 115 yards and a touchdown and Drew Weatherford threw for a score despite a surprise benching for Florida State (3-1), which ran for 287 yards - nearly double its season total - and surpassed by one point the combined tally from its first three contests.

"We got what we needed today," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "We needed a big win and we needed a game where you didn't have to play 60 minutes. Every game we've played up until now has been 60-minute games. Nobody got to rest and we didn't get a lot of substitutes in."

The Seminoles survived with second-half surges against Miami and Troy but were not as fortunate in last week's 27-20 home loss to Clemson. The primary culprit has been a running game that ranked a pitiful 118th out of 119 Division I-A teams, putting plenty of pressure on Weatherford and a young defense.

"There weren't any frustrations," backup tailback Antone Smith said. "We knew that the opponents that we were going to face weren't going to be easy. It just took us some time to get things rolling."

In the finale of a three-game homestand, FSU was able to put together a consistent ground game powered by Booker, who had 89 yards in the first half - 29 more than his season total. His 34-yard run set up fullback Joe Surratt's fourth TD in a many games, a one-yard run just 3:33 into the contest.

Smith's four-yard TD run on a pitch play gave the Seminoles the lead for good at 14-7 with 4:35 left in the first quarter. The score capped a 72-yard drive in which Smith had 34 yards on four carries.

"The offensive line got to the second level today," said Smith, who gave the Seminoles two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since the Gator Bowl after the 2004 season. "They were blocking well on the perimeter and there were a lot of holes out there today."

Weatherford took a seat for Xavier Lee on FSU's next possession. The teams traded turnovers, with freshman Marcus Ball's 54-yard interception return setting up a 32-yard field goal by Gary Cismesia early in the second quarter.

Cismesia boomed a 53-yarder later in the period before Weatherford found 6-6 wideout Greg Carr with an 18-yard TD pass, pushing the halftime advantage to 33-7.

"I feel like it was just about me getting the opportunity," said Carr, who had nine TDs as a freshman but came into this game with none. "We did not have any designated plays for me. It just came down to me going out there and making plays when my number was called."

The defense's only hiccup came on Rice's first possession, when Jarrett Dillard had two catches for 50 yards, including a 32-yard TD haul from Joel Armstrong on a nice play fake that gave the Owls (0-4) a 7-7 tie and brief belief.

"We should have pitched the shutout, but they confused us on the long pass," defensive tackle Andre Fluellen said.

On FSU's first possession of the second half, Booker scooted 24 yards to set up Surratt's second TD, a two-yard plunge. Later, Smith raced 62 yards to the 7 and Booker went around right end for a score on the next play, making it 47-7.

Carr hauled in a 57-yard TD toss from the strong-armed Lee in the fourth quarter.

"The offense scored a couple of times, and the offensive staff thought it would be wise to get Lee in on a third series and they did," Bowden said. "At least he got some good experience. We probably wouldn't have done it if we had been tied up."

Weatherford completed 8-of 12 passes without an interception and Lee was 5-of-11 for 111 yards and a score. Smith had a career-best 137 yards on 12 carries and Carr had five catches for 107 yards for the Seminoles, who amassed 500 yards.

Armstrong was 9-of-24 for 128 yards and an interception. Dillard caught seven passes for 113 yards.

"I'm just really, really disappointed in how we played defensively," Rice coach Todd Graham said. "Give Florida State all the credit in the world, but they were not the same offensive football team we played last week (Texas)."

Ball, the brother of Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, suffered a knee injury on punt coverage and was carted off the field in the third quarter.

Bowden, Division I's all-time winningest coach, improved to 11-1 lifetime against teams from Texas.

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