TALLAHASSEE – There was a moment on Saturday night when things were looking up.
Allen Hurns snagged his second touchdown of the first half, somehow keeping a fraction of an inch between his cleat and the sideline.
It seemed like a turning point: Miami had, minutes earlier, handed Florida State the ball with a chance to go up 28-7 before halftime.
But fearless freshman Jameis Winston turned it over, and the Hurricanes needed to capitalize.
So when Hurns hauled in that miraculous catch and made the score a much more manageable 21-14, the few thousand scattered Miami fans turned to the nearest Seminole and raised their eyebrows as if to say, “Don’t look now.”
Unfortunately, Miami had no reason to celebrate the rest of the way.
As the points piled on late in the third quarter of the 41-14 FSU victory, Miami’s loss became even more deflating when star running back Duke Johnson was injured.
The Hurricanes’ leading rusher was trapped under a pile and appeared to twist his right leg.
He was evaluated for several minutes on the sideline, and then was carted off to get X-rays.
By Sunday afternoon, UM confirmed reports that Johnson broke his ankle and will have surgery this week. He is out for the season.
Miami (7-1, 3-1 ACC) posted just 275 total yards of offense against the powerful Florida State defense, and the Noles (8-0, 6-0 ACC) scored 20 straight points to put the game away.
Tensions were high at the rowdy Doak Campbell Stadium, as players jawed at one another and scuffled in several pileups.
“They came in and battled,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We played hard … that was a physical football game – guys getting after it, which is Florida State-Miami. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”
Winston, the dual-sport redshirt whose surprising Heisman campaign just grew even stronger, used his baseball savvy to brush off two early interceptions.
“Just like baseball, sometimes you go out there and strike out,” he said. “Then you’ve got to come back and bounce back, and my team really helped me through it.”
The Seminoles initially ranked ahead of Oregon in the first BCS standings, only to flip places last week at No. 2 and 3. But Saturday’s win over the undefeated Hurricanes (No. 7 before the game) showed the experts that Florida State is at its best when the stage is biggest.
“I thought our assistant coaches did a great job in the game preparing and making adjustments at halftime,” Fisher said. “I thought our defense was stellar in the second half.”
FSU has played three top-25 teams, and annihilated all three (Maryland, Clemson, Miami) by a combined score of 155-28.
“Obviously we didn’t do enough in this game to put any pressure on them,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “We needed one more score in the first quarter to put some pressure on them.”
And then the Seminoles offense hit its stride.
“Once we started getting behind, it unraveled a little bit,” Golden said.
FSU defensive back Lamarcus Joyner gave Miami praise for its toughness.
“I tip my hat off to those guys,” he said. “The score doesn’t determine how physical that team is and how good of a team that is. Those guys are some great football players. It was scary out there, man, it was tough. It was emotional, it was hard-nosed football, and we needed that test.”
Coming up short against a top rival is never easy – much less four years in a row. But if the Canes stay on track in the ACC Coastal, a rematch looms in December.
Miami will have to regroup and assess its options on offense now that Johnson is out.
Next up is Virginia Tech for this year’s Homecoming game, set for 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Hokies have lost two in a row and need to beat the Canes to stay in contention for a Coastal Division title.