ATLANTA - For years, Adrian McPherson has had the upper hand on Tony Hargrove.
McPherson, Florida State's starting quarterback, led his Bradenton Southeast (Fla.) High football and basketball teams past Hargrove's Port Charlotte (Fla.) High teams.
"They crushed us, in football and basketball," Hargrove, now a Georgia Tech defensive end, said of his district rivals. "(McPherson) could just shoot real well in basketball. He was like a one-man show. He hit us for 56 points. He hit like 10 3-pointers on us."
The two will reunite Saturday on the football field, when No. 17 Florida State visits Georgia Tech for a 3:30 game.
Hargrove always thought the 6-foot-4 McPherson, the state's Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football as a senior, was a better football player. So did everyone else.
"In football, he could throw so well. They had a thing on him in the paper, 'The perfect way to throw a football.' They had him in each step," said Hargrove, himself a high school quarterback. "I was like, 'What in the world is this all about?' That's when you knew how good the guy was.
"He was always the talk of the town."
That hasn't changed. McPherson, installed as the Seminoles' starting quarterback for last week's game with Wake Forest, rallied Florida State to a 31-21 road victory. McPherson, a sophomore, completed 28 of 44 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He earned high praise from 'Noles coach Bobby Bowden for his poise and decision-making.
McPherson's athletic ability was on display in his first career start.
"I think it's very obvious - it showed up (Saturday) more than I realized - is that when Adrian starts to scramble, he's still got his eyes downfield," Bowden said. "If a receiver gets open, sometimes he'll find it and get it to him."
That skill separates him from Chris Rix, the ACC Rookie of the Year last season and Florida State's starter until a loss to Notre Dame. Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey compared McPherson to former NFL great John Elway.
"You really have to stay back with him on the edge or when he starts to scramble or bootleg," Gailey said. "Kordell Stewart was like Rix, when he scrambled he was scrambling to run. Elway was scrambling to throw. McPherson is one that when he scrambles he's looking to throw first."
It's an ability that leaves defenders in a lurch. Cornerbacks, accustomed to coming up to tackle scrambling quarterbacks, must ignore that impulse and stay with their receivers. Linebackers must commit quickly, or else McPherson can drop a pass over them as he did in crucial situations against Wake Forest.
"I think I did some pretty good things, but I saw a couple of things that I missed on film, a couple of routes that I missed," said McPherson, who had two turnovers in the game.
Defensive ends, like Hargrove, must change their pass rush to keep contain on the outside and not allow him out of the pocket.
Still the game presents a chance Hargrove has been longing for.
"When I came here and he went to Florida State, I knew I'd get a chance to play against him sometime again. The next time, we're going to get him," Hargrove said. "It'll be fun and then I can go back to Florida and see him again - and I can tell him about it."
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