In typical rivalry fashion, the Miami-FSU game was full of spectacles, including three offensive pass interference calls, four wounded Seminoles, Heat stars in attendance, a crazy fan who ran across the field and – of course – a field goal traveling wide left.
Despite an energetic start, the Hurricanes fell 33-20 to the Seminoles Saturday night in this season’s Homecoming game. Miami (4-4, 3-2 ACC) got out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter but failed to keep up with the slew of playmakers on the No. 11 Seminoles (7-1, 4-1 ACC).
“I thought we coached hard, we played hard and we lost to a good team,” coach Al Golden said.
Early on, the Hurricanes fed off a raucous crowd of 73,000 fans at Sun Life Stadium. Stephen Morris, recovering from an ankle injury, was named the starting quarterback just prior to kickoff. He was listed as doubtful on the official injury report released Thursday and the team practiced all week as if backup quarterback Ryan Williams would start.
“It meant everything for me,” Morris said of his desire to play in the primetime game. “I knew I was gonna be out there.”
Mike James scored the first touchdown on a nine-yard rush. The Miami defense then held Florida State without a first down on the Noles’ first series. The Canes went up 10-0 on a 19-yard field goal from Jake Wieclaw.
Before the half, the game was tied 10-10 and Miami was a little too eager to get into the locker room. On what appeared to be the last play, FSU committed a false start penalty, but Jimbo Fisher called a timeout, preventing the 10-second clock runoff. Most of the Hurricanes were already headed down the tunnel, but had to sprint back before Dustin Hopkins scored a field goal, giving the Seminoles their first lead.
After that, the Hurricanes, along with the crowd, deflated rapidly. Morris went 25-for-43, got sacked four times and threw an interception. He failed to connect with receivers Rashawn Scott and Phillip Dorsett and relied mostly on the running backs.
Mike James led the team with eight receptions for 75 yards. Duke Johnson left the game in the third quarter with an injury.
The Hurricanes were 4-of-16 on third down conversions and couldn’t capitalize on Florida State’s mistakes. The Seminoles gave up two fumbles and were hit for 121 penalty yards.
“They’re the better team right now and we had opportunities that we did not convert. They did, hat’s off to them,” Golden said.
EJ Manuel was 21-of-31 for 229 yards.
FSU’s star running back, Chris Thompson, had 47 yards before injuring his knee in the second quarter. James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman took over his duties and combined for 119 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
The Hurricane defense showed how they are constantly improving. Denzel Perryman led the team with 12 tackles and Brandon McGee had a crucial sack off a corner blitz in the second quarter.
Freshman cornerback Tracy Howard had two tackles and Tyriq McCord was very influential with a sack and a fumble recovery. Inside the red zone, the defense twice held the Seminoles to a field goal.
“We’re doing a lot better, you know it’s just some plays are missed opportunities,” Perryman said. He took responsibility for the first FSU touchdown then said, “It’s just lack of execution.”
The Canes have a bye week next week and will take the much-needed time to recover. Johnson, Perryman and Morris have all suffered injuries this year and the entire team seemingly could use a break.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to heal, number one. I definitely think that this team just needs to rest,” Morris said. “Our biggest focus is just staying on the path that Coach Golden’s laid out.”
After a 4-1 start, the Canes have faltered as of late, dropping their last three contests.
But the team remains optimistic that, despite the struggles, there are high hopes for this group.
“It’s definitely been a grind, but that’s what we play the sport for,” McGee said. “The sport in itself is a grind already, but you know we have an opportunity right now. We’ll take advantage of it.”