Miami's Kyle Wright has attempted nine passes in his college career. Florida State's Drew Weatherford has taken one snap in his, spraining his ankle on the play.
The annual meeting of traditional powers Florida State and Miami will have a unique tenor tonight, with two quarterbacks making their first career starts and no one is quite sure what to expect out of two programs that over the past 19 years have produced four Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks: Florida State's Chris Weinke (2000) and Charlie Ward (1993); Miami's Gino Torretta (1992) and Vinny Testaverde (1986).
"All we hear here is, 'Inexperienced quarterback. Inexperienced quarterback,' " Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. "Well, they've got the same problem."
Tonight's game between the ninth-ranked Hurricanes and the 14th-ranked Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee promises to be intense and physical, but it remains to be seen how aesthetically pleasing the play is from a quarterback perspective. It hardly matters now that Wright, a redshirt sophomore, was widely regarded as the nation's finest quarterback as a senior at Monte Vista High in Danville, Calif. Or that some members of Miami's coaching staff told Coach Larry Coker that Wright reminds them of "the guys who have played here before that have won these games."
Both Bowden and Coker know that no prep accolade or recommendation adequately prepares a quarterback for making his first start before 82,000 frenzied fans rooting for the opponent. The last Miami quarterback to begin his career at Florida State was Ryan Clement on Oct. 7, 1995. Florida State won, 41-17, and Clement called Miami's accumulation of 223 yards "inept."
The wild card tonight is that the Hurricanes have won six straight in the series. Florida State's last starting quarterback, Chris Rix, lost all five of his meetings with Miami.
It only makes the challenge more difficult that the game is staged during the season's opening weekend. But Bowden said the program could not pass on the opportunity to play on national television. The bad news, he cautioned, is that you have to be in midseason form on Labor Day.
"Who's starting tougher than us?" Coker said. "You don't see Ohio State-Michigan or Oklahoma-Texas start the season."
As important as the Miami-Florida State game always is, Coker said the matchup might have had larger significance last season, when Miami competed in its first season in the ACC. This year, he said, the Hurricanes could lose the game and the two teams could still win their respective division in the ACC and meet in the conference title game Dec. 3.
Much depends on quarterback play, of course. Florida State's predicament became clouded after Wyatt Sexton was lost for the season to recover from symptoms of Lyme disease. Weatherford, a redshirt freshman and son of a former backup quarterback at Southern Methodist, became the favorite to win the job after the team's third scrimmage, Bowden said.
The decision became a virtual no-brainer after fellow quarterback Xavier Lee missed several practices with a sore shoulder, but Bowden wanted to wait as long as possible before announcing it.
"I think it was obvious to everyone on the field and even Xavier," said Jeff Bowden, Florida State's offensive coordinator who added, "I can't express the necessity of having Xavier ready for this ballgame."
Bobby Bowden wanted both players to keep practicing with a first-string mentality, because last week's decision is not a "season-ending" announcement, he said. "One is the starter," he added, "the other is the finisher. Lee should look at it like, 'He didn't beat me out. He is ahead of me right now.' "
Bowden would not say for certain whether Lee would also see action, but few expect him to remain on the sideline should Weatherford struggle. Some discomfort against the Hurricanes' defense is expected.
"He is going to have problems," Bowden said of Weatherford. "He has not been on the field long enough in a game to know how to handle all the problems that can arise. The only way he is going to get through that is experience."
About the only thing coaches are sure of about tonight's game is this: "Somebody is going to win," Jeff Bowden said. "This is going to be the ultimate experience right off the bat for them."