Another late-game Miami comeback came up short in Tallahassee on Saturday.
The Canes (5-5, 3-4 ACC) must now fight to even become bowl-eligible after their 23-19 loss at Florida State (7-3, 5-2). Many expected the familiarity of this rivalry game to snap Miami into focus, and they delivered in some ways.
But the Canes’ achievement in outgaining the Seminoles 383 yards to 259, holding them to just 63 yards on the ground in the process, was rendered meaningless when penalties, special teams gaffes and costly turnovers consistently thwarted their momentum.
“It’s just, we pretty much handle a lot of stuff, but unfortunately they still came out victorious,” said safety Vaughn Telemaque, who led the team with seven tackles. “We tried to contain E.J. [Manuel] as best we could, but he was still able to make big plays for his team. Just disappointed overall. The stat sheet doesn’t matter.”
Though the road team claimed the last five matchups between these two teams, the atmosphere at sold-out Doak Campbell stadium on Saturday proved too hostile for Miami to come away with a win. In a bizarre first half – one that included a fumble returned for a Seminoles touchdown (which was promptly overturned), a Jacory Harris interception in the endzone and a muffed punt, among other oddities – the Canes did manage to grab an early 7-3 lead.
After falling behind 23-7 well into the fourth quarter, Miami made another late run to make the game close. Harris, who finished the game with a touchdown, an interception and 225 yards passing, has acted out that script many times. The end result: a fifth loss that returned the Canes to .500.
“Losing the close games are the tough ones, and every game we’ve lost this year has been close, down to the wire,” Harris said. “It’s devastating when you lose them like that. You always feel like you have a chance to win, but you just run out of time.”
Credit for both the players and coaching staff is deserved, but the fact that each loss has been decided in the fourth quarter – all of them decided by one score – has players such as Telemaque frustrated.
“We’ve got to be down for everyone else to come up,” Telemaque said. “You’ve gotta get guys on the field who want to make that difference that changes the game.”
Now just two games remain, one at South Florida and one against Boston College, and a bowl trip is anything but assured. The Canes must fight to extend their season and avoid sending the seniors’ careers to an abrupt end.
Senior center Tyler Horn slouched at the post-game press conference as he acknowledged that his days in a Miami uniform are numbered.
“It’s very tough, but it’s part of it,” Horn said. “I got 14 days left, they’re dwindling down, but all I can do is focus on the next game. You invest so much into a game plan and when you get so close and fall short, it’s tough. That’s football. You have to execute at the end. Great teams are able to get the o-nside kick or make the field goal, it’s just part of it. Great teams don’t put themselves in that situation.”
Miami is not a great team. Nobody could seriously categorize the Canes as such after 10 rocky games. However, there is talent and ability on this team that hasn’t translated into more wins simply because of missed opportunities.
“Frustration is just losing,” Telemaque said. “You see the points that we lose by, it’s not something that you think the other team is dominating. It’s really tough. We just have to figure out which way we’re going to change that outcome.”