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Ted Hutton: Smith, LeFevour healthy & ready to put up the passes...

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Ted Hutton: Smith, LeFevour healthy & ready to put up the passes...

By Ted Hutton | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
December 26, 2008

Detroit - Injuries have suppressed their numbers this season, but both quarterbacks are now healthy, so fans can expect the air above Ford Field to be filled with footballs during tonight's Motor City Bowl.

Florida Atlantic's Rusty Smith and Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour both have strong, accurate arms and offer the marquee match-up in the game, which begins at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

"He can't be stopped. Statistics prove that," FAU defensive coordinator Kirk Hoza said about LeFevour, a 6-foot-3, 229-pound junior from Illinois.

"Rusty is as good a quarterback as I have seen," said Chippewas coach Butch Jones about Smith (6-5, 212), a junior from Jacksonville.

For the first half of the season, Smith looked more ordinary than good, as he struggled to get past an injury suffered on the first series of the first game of the season.

The Owls (6-6) had driven down to the Texas 16-yard line, but on first down the ball was snapped over Smith's head, and when he tried to recover it, he was hit and his left shoulder was injured.

Smith didn't miss a snap, but the extent of the injury to his non-throwing shoulder was not made clear until it had healed midway through the season.

That is when Smith revealed that it had been separated and that he might have been compensating for it, which contributed to his poor numbers.

Smith threw nine interceptions during FAU's 1-5 start, the same total he had in 13 games last season, and he had just five touchdown passes, after completing 32 in 2007.

"He was protecting himself and started falling off the ball on the throw and not following through and it really hurt his accuracy," said quarterbacks coach Gary Nord.

Once the shoulder had healed, Smith got his form back and led the Owls to a 5-1 finish, including throwing five touchdowns against Florida International to rally the Owls to a 57-50 overtime win that made them bowl eligible.

Thanks in part to that finish, Smith's reputation as a potential NFL Draft pick and the media attention that coach Howard Schnellenberger generates, the Owls got the bid to the Motor City Bowl over three other 6-6 teams being considered.

While Smith is making his Motor City Bowl debut, LeFevour and the Chippewas (8-4) are making their third straight appearance.

LeFevour's numbers from last year's game show what Hoza and FAU's defense face as they try and slow down the dual-threat LeFevour, who has been likened to Florida's Tim Tebow because of his size and power-running style.

In a 51-48 loss to Purdue, LeFevour was a part of all six Chippewas touchdowns, throwing for four and rushing for two, compiling 406 yards of total offense.

That capped a season where LeFevour threw for 3,652 yards and ran for 1,112 to become the second quarterback in NCAA Division I-A history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000, joining Texas' Vince Young, who did it in 2005.

LeFevour came into this season with a lot of hype, and even talk of a potential run at the Heisman, but an ankle injury kept him out of 2 1/2 games and limited his running ability.

But he is the Chippewas' leading rusher, averaging 53.6 yards per game while passing for 253.1 and completing 66.4 percent of his throws.

"You don't hit him very much and they don't give up very many sacks. If he has got time, he makes all his throws. We have got a formidable challenge," Hoza said.


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Smith, LeFevour healthy & ready to put up the passes
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