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Injury Scare Doesn’t Slow Seminoles : Football: Tailback Amp Lee went down in the third quarter, but he was not seriously hurt. That would have been a blow to No. 1 Florida State.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

What a great name for a tailback. Amp Lee. It reads quick, just like you want a tailback to run. It conjures images of energy and power. Mary Lou Retton would love it: “It’s supercharged!

But for a moment during Thursday night’s Pigskin Classic, it looked as though the Florida State junior’s season might mirror his name--short and sweet.

Lee had taken a pitch from Seminole quarterback Casey Weldon early in the third quarter of Florida State’s 44-28 victory over Brigham Young and raced around left end for a 20-yard gain.

Cougar safety Derwin Gray grabbed Lee high and tried to wrestle him to the ground. Lee, going for some extra yards, tried to fight Gray off. The players’ legs tangled, and Lee’s left ankle crumbled under Gray’s leg.

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Florida State coaches and players held their breath as Lee, who rushed for 825 yards and 16 touchdowns and did not fumble once in 1990, was carried off the field in Anaheim Stadium.

“At first, I thought it was real serious,” Lee said. “My whole leg was hurting. I was scared.”

So were his teammates. Lee is an integral part of what many consider the finest offensive backfield in the nation, a unit that includes Weldon and senior fullback Edgar Bennett. Take Lee away, and perhaps the top-ranked Seminoles might not look like such a strong national-championship contender.

“If we lost him, it would be crucial,” Bennett said. “He’s one of our go-to guys when the situation gets tough. It would be real hard on the team.”

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But the Seminoles luck wasn’t hard Thursday night. X-rays on Lee’s left leg were negative and he escaped with a shin bruise. At most, Lee might miss one game, against Tulane Sept. 7.

“Thank goodness it wasn’t a knee or ankle,” Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. “It was right in between. I’m very happy with that.”

Until the injury, Lee had enjoyed an excellent game, rushing 13 times for 75 yards and a touchdown and catching two passes for 32 yards. He had runs of 29 and 11 yards called back because of penalties in the first half.

Bennett, who thought long and hard last year about passing up his senior season at Florida State and turning professional, had an even better night.

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Much to the pleasure of Seminole coaches and fans, Bennett decided to remain an amateur, but he sure looked like a pro against Brigham Young, rushing 21 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns and catching six passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Bennett scored Florida State’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter, on a four-yard pass from Weldon and a three-yard run, and added a two-yard score in the third quarter that gave the Seminoles a 35-14 lead.

And Weldon did nothing to hurt Florida State’s backfield stature, completing 21 of 28 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, earning most valuable player honors for the Seminoles.

“I was sitting on the sidelines watching, thinking about the way the game was going and realizing we have so much talent in our backfield,” Lee said. “Edgar played well, Casey played well . . . we’re all dubbed All-Americans and that makes you want to compete. It’s our responsibility to perform for the team.”

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Bennett and Lee were involved in many of the Seminoles’ big plays Thursday night. Bennett caught a 32-yard pass from Weldon on a third-and-11 to prolong Florida State’s second scoring drive.

Lee made one of the more spectacular catches of the evening. On a third-and-eight from the Cougar 47 in the second quarter, Weldon threw a pass behind Lee in the right flat.

Lee, turning clockwise, reached out with his right hand, tipped the ball in the air and hauled it in without breaking his stride. He continued for a 28-yard gain, and the Seminoles later scored for a 21-7 lead.

On Florida State’s next possession, Weldon threw a 23-yard pass to Bennett over the middle that helped set up Lee’s five-yard touchdown run, giving the Seminoles a 28-7 lead.

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“We took advantage of the things they didn’t do,” Bennett said. “We tried to keep people on their toes. If we ran the ball, the pass would be open. If we passed the ball, the run would be open. We just took advantage of what they gave us.”

Florida State is taking advantage of what Bennett is giving, too. Remember, Bennett almost gave his services to some NFL team.

“My foot was out the door,” Bennett said of his near-decision to leave college. “But Coach Bowden grabbed my hand and pulled me back in.”


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