Call it fate, destiny, irony or whatever else you can think of to explain the Miami – Florida State history.
For the fourth time in the last 12 contests between the two national powerhouses, the final play came down to a failed field goal attempt by FSU. With one second left on the clock, Seminoles placekicker Xavier Beitia pushed a 43-yard field goal wide left to preserve the victory for the Hurricanes.
“With what happened in this game, I just don’t think we can lose,” said tight end Kellen Winslow. “We are just destined to win.”
The only thing different in this game from the other classic UM-FSU match ups was that the kick sailed wide left – FSU kickers missed wide right in the 1991, 1992, and 2000 games.
“The missed field goal reminded me of the game two seasons ago,” said middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma. “We were definitely a little nervous, but once that kick sailed left I just couldn’t control my emotions. I was exhausted from not only the game, but from celebrating.”
The Miami victory, which extended the nation’s longest winning streak at 28 games, was in front of the largest crowd (81, 927) in Orange Bowl history.
“The fans went crazy at the end giving us a great boost,” said offensive guard Sherko Haji-Rasouli. “The crowd was extremely supportive…they were really loud from kickoff to the end of the game.”
Despite the extraordinary and emotional victory, the ‘Canes were very lucky to come out of this game on top, as they committed 14 penalties for 109 yards and committed three turnovers.
Maybe the most important penalty was a chop block call at the end of the third quarter that negated a 53-yard pass from Ken Dorsey to Roscoe Parris. Miami was forced to punt and set up a Greg Jones touchdown run that gave the Seminoles a 27-14 lead with 11:44 left in the game. However, the ‘Canes should have held FSU to a field goal, but a Miami unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on third down gave FSU a first down.
“We made mental mistakes that are inexcusable,” said Vilma. “We were very fortunate to come out with the victory. When the game was on the line, we adjusted and picked up the intensity.”
The Seminoles committed only four penalties for 35 yards. It is worth noting that FSU ran the ball 52 times and did not have one offensive holding call. The officials for the game were from the ACC.
Miami junior wide receiver Kevin Beard and sophomore tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. made a huge impact in the ‘Canes victory.
Beard, after scoring two touchdowns in last week’s win over UConn, caught four balls for 60 yards and was on the receiving end of a Dorsey touchdown pass with 8:10 left in the fourth quarter that cut the FSU lead to 27-21.
Winslow was also a major factor, as he had a team high six receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. Winslow kept up the tradition of Miami tight ends having a break out game vs. FSU, as former ‘Cane tight end Jeremy Shockey made a name for himself in the memorable 2000 match up.
“I knew I would step up today because they tend to leave the tight end open to prevent the deep plays from our receivers,” Winslow said. “Big time players produce in big time games.”
With the victory, Dorsey became the first Miami quarterback to defeat the Seminoles three times.
Dorsey struggled a bit in the early going, throwing two interceptions and fumbling a snap. However, he proved that he is a proven leader, as he guided Miami to a 14-point comeback. He led they way with poise and leadership on two drives in the final nine minutes of the game to give Miami the win.
“He is an experienced player who made the plays when it counted,” Haji-Rasouli said. “He was so confident and had great poise. He is such a great leader.”
Dorsey matched a career high with 362 yards passing. It was his fifth game of the season with more than 200 yards passing and his 16 touchdown passes put him well on the way of breaking Steve Walsh’s single season UM record of 29 touchdown passes (1988) in a season.
FSU ran all over the Miami defense, rushing the ball a whopping 52 times for 296 yards. FSU tailback Greg Jones had a career high 31 carries and 195 yards rushing. However, after being dominated at the line of scrimmage for nearly the entire game, the UM defense held FSU in its final two possessions to no points.
“We kept our same defensive game plan throughout the game,” said sophomore safety Sean Taylor. “We just didn’t quit and picked up the intensity when it counted.”
Miami’s game plan of running the ball behind star tailback Willis McGahee didn’t completely go as planed, but he still finished with 95 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Perhaps the biggest offensive play of the game was McGahee’s 68-yard reception on a screen pass that gave UM the ball at the FSU 11 yard line with 5:17 remaining. The play set up the game winning 11-yard touchdown run by junior Jason Geathers.
“It was a huge play and I feel honored to have my number called on such an important play,” Geathers said.
You can reach Brian Poliakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.