With only two full days of practice heading into tonight's 7:30 ESPN-televised game at Wake Forest, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden was a tad concerned yesterday about his starting quarterback missing one of those days.
It turned out Xavier Lee had a valid excuse - he was meeting with a professor.
"Of course, as soon as we got off the field, there he was, with his tutor, explaining to us what had happened," Bowden said. "We were hoping and praying he'd get out early, but he didn't."
If anyone needed the practice time for the Demon Deacons, it might have been Lee, whose poor performance in last year's 30-0 loss to Wake Forest had him benched before halftime. He threw two interceptions and completed just five of 13 passes for 61 yards.
The Seminoles had a walk-through yesterday morning "to see if we can't catch him up," Bowden said.
Since taking the reins of the Seminoles' offense from Drew Weatherford, though, Lee has found the consistency - and the big plays - the team lacked last season.
In just more than six quarters of play, Lee is the team's second-leading rusher with 73 yards. He has also thrown for more than 200 yards in each of the past two games and has completed three passes longer than 50 yards. Lee earned his first start of the season last weekend in a 27-10 win against North Carolina State.
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is expecting Lee to give his defense some problems.
"I coached defense for a lot of years, and the quarterbacks who gave us the most problems were the mobile running backs," Grobe said. " ... The unknown is his ability to pull the ball down and run with it. Sometimes you can do a nice job in coverage and cover everybody, but then you force Xavier to take off running with the football, and that's always something that drives you nuts."
North Carolina coach Butch Davis has missed two days of practice this week to attend his brother-in-law's funeral in Oklahoma, but Tar Heels offensive coordinator John Shoop said preparation for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. ABC-televised border rival game in Chapel Hill against No. 7 South Carolina hasn't changed.
"Nobody can stand up in front of the team and motivate the way he can," Shoop said. "There's no substitute for that. But, in some ways, it's tremendous motivation for our players and for our coaches to be able to meet the standards that he has set, even when he is not here, and I think that speaks volumes for Coach Davis.
"I promise you this," Shoop said, "he's watching that film, and if they're not met, some people are going to have to answer for it. We're working our tails off to meet those standards and his expectations."
The Tar Heels are coming off a 33-27 upset of Miami. North Carolina hasn't faced the Gamecocks since 1991.
After coaching stints at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, Bill Lewis, the defensive backs coach at Notre Dame, is familiar with the Atlantic Coast Conference. He might be even more familiar, though, with first-year Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski, whose Eagles will travel to South Bend, Ind., this weekend for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Lewis gave Jagodzinski his first coaching job at a Division I school when he hired him at East Carolina in 1989.
"When we first got there, Bill took over a program where we were everybody's homecoming game," Jagodzinski said. "By the end, we ended up being ninth in the country and Bill was national Coach of the Year. I've got a lot of respect for Bill."
The two also coached against each other in the NFL, when Jagodzinski was with the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons, and Lewis was with the Miami Dolphins.
When they meet again Saturday, a Notre Dame win would be an upset. The Fighting Irish (1-5) recently broke the second-longest losing streak in school history, and No. 4 Boston College has won seven straight. The Eagles are 6-0 for the first time in 65 years.
"This group of seniors - especially the last three years - have been on teams that have won nine, nine and 10 [games]," Jagodzinski said. "BC has been one game away from getting to where they wanted to be. They took that upon themselves to say this is a year we can make a mark on it."