TALLAHASSEE-On a day where it never stopped raining, the Hurricanes brought their own storm to Doak Campbell Stadium as they shocked their intrastate rival Florida State 22-14.
The ‘Canes entered the game as seven-point underdogs after barely escaping against West Virginia a week ago, but were dominant throughout, building up a 22-point lead in the third quarter. The ‘Canes defense was too much for the Seminoles, as they forced five turnovers, including a Sean Taylor 50-yard interception return for a touchdown which made the score 19-0.
Junior quarterback Brock Berlin completed 15 of 28 passes for 181 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The Florida transfer was helped by Jarrett Payton, who rushed for 97 yards on 26 carries in his first start as a Hurricane.
“I think that [the running game] was probably the difference in the game today,” Head Coach Larry Coker said after the game. “I think Jarrett had almost 100 yards, and their team had about 60. I think that pretty much says it all right there.”
Kellen Winslow led all receivers with seven catches for 106 yards, and Jon Peattie kicked three field goals for the ‘Canes.
Seminole quarterback Chris Rix struggled mightily, completing 20 of 42 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Rix had trouble handling the constant pressure coming from the Hurricane defensive line, and was booed by the Florida State crowd several times.
Coker was impressed with the all-around performance of his team.
“It was a great team win for us,” Coker said. “Offense, defense, and special teams. Nobody has run the ball against Florida State, and Jarrett Payton really stepped up. Our offensive line really stepped up in tough conditions.”
Coker also gave credit to the entire coaching staff for their extensive research of the Seminoles and the meticulous game planning during the week.
“Phenomenal job by our scout team throughout the course of the week, giving us a great look and preparing us for a tough opponent like Florida State,” Coker said. “Randy Shannon and our defensive staff did a tremendous job of studying them and really trying to put them in bad situations.”
Sophomore defensive end Thomas Carroll, who had a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery, said that the defensive line’s ability to hurry Rix’s throws and hold running back Greg Jones to 15 yards on 13 carries gave playmakers like Taylor the opportunity to intercept passes.
“It starts up front,” Carroll said. “The d-line got good pressure and the linebackers were there to back us up. We were able to wrap him [Jones] up before he broke any tackles.”
The ‘Canes opened up the scoring with a Peattie field goal with 5:16 left in the first quarter, which was set up by Jarrell Weaver’s blocked punt, recovered by Taylor. Peattie added another field goal to give the Hurricanes a 6-0 lead after one quarter.
Taylor made his first of two interceptions on the first play of the second quarter, giving the ‘Canes the ball at their own 25-yard line. Berlin led the offense down the field for their finest drive of the game, resulting in 14-yard touchdown catch by Payton, which was set up by an 18-yard reception by Winslow and a Roscoe Parrish reverse for 17 yards.
Despite losing their star running back for the season, Coker never lost faith in Payton’s ability to step in and lead the rushing attack.
“Jarrett believes in himself, and from what he’s shown us, he’s really stepped it up. When he has had opportunities, he has done well with them,” Coker said. “For him to have a day like he had today was just huge for his confidence and huge for our football team.”
Taylor’s aforementioned interception return gave the Hurricanes a 19-point lead at halftime, and left Seminole fans wondering what went wrong.
Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden was particularly impressed with Taylor’s performance.
“It was obvious that we could not throw long,” Bowden said. “You can’t hang the ball up there for No. 26 [Taylor]. I haven’t seen a safety that good in a long time. He hits as good as he covers.”
The Seminoles were able to make the game interesting in the second half, as Rix threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Willie Reid in the third quarter, cutting the Hurricanes’ lead to 15. The touchdown was set up by a Leroy Smith interception.
The Hurricane defense was able to withstand the late charge by the Seminoles, not allowing another score until Rix found Chris Davis in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown with no time left in the fourth quarter, making the final score 22-14.
The win gives the Hurricanes their second-straight Florida Cup, which they earned by beating both Florida State and Florida this season.
“That was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, to win the Florida Cup,” Berlin said. “We’re just excited and we’re going to celebrate this right now.”
Coker said that the team was angry about their performance against West Virginia and the fact that they entered the game as underdogs to their hated rivals.
“We didn’t come in here on a high note,” Coker said. “We got a lot of criticism, even though we won, from a close loss. Not a lot of people gave us a chance to win this game.”
Coker praised the mettle and feistiness of this year’s squad, and said that UM has always been able to overcome adversity.
“Miami has traditionally been this way,” Coker said. “When their backs are [against] the wall, and maybe not respected, it seems to really get to our players, and they respond.”