Miami might lean on Winslow against FSU

Updated: October 7, 2003, 8:21 PM ET

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Miami tends to turn to tight end Kellen Winslow when it needs help. That could happen now more than ever.

The second-ranked Hurricanes have lost running back Frank Gore for the season because of a knee injury and have moved Jason Geathers -- once considered their top receiver -- to tailback.

The losses seemingly weaken an already sputtering offense.

And they might mean more work for Winslow, the team's leading receiver with 25 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown.

"He's our go-to guy, maybe even more so now," center Joel Rodriguez said. "He's a quarterback's best friend. He's a security blanket. He gets open on every play and can make just about any catch we need him to make."

Miami is sixth in the Big East in rushing, ahead of only Rutgers and Temple, and has scored just nine touchdowns in 21 trips inside the 20-yard line. Getting Winslow the ball more often could solve the problems.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound son of NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr. expects single coverage against No. 5 Florida State on Saturday, with speedy outside linebackers Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope trying to slow him down.

He welcomes the matchup.

"I go versus safeties and corners, and I beat them," Winslow said Tuesday. "I don't think anybody can cover me one-on-one. Nobody."

Winslow proved that last week against West Virginia.

With Gore sidelined with a torn ligament in his left knee, the Mountaineers played a three-deep zone that left Winslow with single coverage underneath. He caught 11 passes for 104 yards, a breakout performance in what had been a frustrating season.

His biggest catch came with Miami trailing 20-19 and facing a fourth-and-13 from the 25 with less than two minutes to play. Brock Berlin lofted the pass down the middle, and Winslow made a leaping catch that kept the eventual game-winning drive alive.

"I know what I can do. I've been doing it my whole life," Winslow said. "I dream about those catches, and it really wasn't a hard catch at all. I just went to go get it."

Coach Larry Coker said watching Winslow make outstanding catches have almost become routine.

"You watch Michael Jordan at the end of a game when you have to have it, and people are all over him, and he hits a 3-pointer and you win the NBA title," Coker said. "Kellen Winslow is that type of player. He doesn't amaze you that much anymore. The catch was phenomenal. Obviously, it saved the game. Winslow plays with such passion and such energy. He's phenomenal to watch."

Winslow had similar numbers against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, catching 11 passes for 122 yards and scoring a touchdown that gave Miami its only lead in overtime.

That game had many calling him the best receiver -- maybe even the best player -- in the country. It also resulted in extra attention this season.

He caught just 11 passes for 97 yards in the first three games, often slowed by chips, jams and double-coverage.

"It was a little frustrating, but I understood that I could also do other stuff," Winslow said. "As long as the team wins, that's what matters."

For that to happen, the Hurricanes might have to rely on Winslow.

"If we do what we're supposed to do and go up there and take care of business, it won't even be a game," he said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index