TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After seven years of Florida State dominance in its rivalry with Miami, the pendulum finally shifted back toward the Hurricanes.
And, as is to be expected in this series, it did so in dramatic and heartbreaking fashion.
UM quarterback Malik Rosier connected with Darrell Langham for a 23-yard touchdown pass with six seconds to play that erased a late FSU lead and lifted No. 13 Miami to a 24-20 win over the Seminoles in front of 78,169 fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.
James Blackman’s 21-yard TD pass to Auden Tate gave FSU a 20-17 advantage with 1:24 on the clock, but the Hurricanes marched 75 yards in 1:18 to claim their first win over the Seminoles since 2009 – Bobby Bowden’s last year at Florida State.
The Seminoles, 1-3 for the first time since 1976, Bowden’s first year at FSU, are on the road at Duke next week. Miami will host Georgia Tech.
“It was a heck of a football game,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “And when it came down to the end, (Miami) made one more play and got the one inch that they needed to get the touchdown.”
An inch may have decided the game. Officials had to consult a lengthy review to determine whether Langham’s knee was down short of the goal line on the winning play.
Replays looked close, but the touchdown was upheld, sending a sizable Miami contingent into a roar and spreading stunned silence across the rest of the stadium.
“It’s kind of disappointing,” senior linebacker Matthew Thomas said. “We came out and should have won the game.”
It was all part of a wild fourth quarter that turned what had been a low-scoring, defensive affair on its head. The two teams combined for 31 points and four lead changes during the final 15 minutes, a startling turn from a first half that saw Florida State take a 3-0 lead into the break despite nearly tripling UM’s offensive production in the first two quarters.
The Seminoles, as it turned out, would regret their missed opportunities.
FSU went to halftime with heavy advantages in total offense (163-57), yards per play (4.3-1.9) and time of possession (19:07-10:53), and it had four first-half drives end inside Miami territory.
Those drives, however, resulted in only three points.
“We didn’t execute a couple times, and they made a couple plays,” Fisher said. “They knocked the ball away and stopped us. That’s what it was.”
That allowed the Hurricanes to wait out a slow start from Rosier and find themselves within striking distance once their offense heated up in the second half.
Rosier had completed only 4 of 16 pass attempts at halftime but by the end was 19 of 44 for 254 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Miami, similarly, finished with 337 yards of offense after having just 57 at halftime.
“In the first half, things were working, things were rolling,” senior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. “They’d punch, we’d punch back. In the second half, it was kind of the same thing – they threw a punch, we threw a punch back. Going back and forth, back and forth.
“In the end, they made a big play.”
The Seminoles, meanwhile, enjoyed their best running effort of the season: 203 yards and 4.7 yards per carry, a mark that included a 100-yard day for freshman Cam Akers (20-121) and another 91 from junior Jacques Patrick.
And quarterback James Blackman mirrored his counterpart – a slow start followed by an electric finish. The freshman in the fourth quarter completed 9 of 10 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns, which brought his total to 17-of-28, 203 yards and two interceptions to go along with those two TDs.
As a result, the final 15 minutes were as frantic and thrilling as any in the series’ recent history, with Blackman (making his third career start) and Rosier (his fifth) engaged in a duel that belied their inexperience.
When Blackman and Ryan Izzo tied the game with a 15-yard score early in the fourth quarter, it looked like the Seminoles might have exorcised some of their early-season demons: The play came both on a third-and-long and in the red zone.
But after a Ricky Aguayo field goal put the Seminoles on top, Rosier had an answer – a beautiful, 6-yard pass over the head of a defender and into the arms of Braxton Berrios, the senior receiver who tormented FSU to the tune of eight catches, 90 yards and two scores.
And when Blackman threw his last touchdown, it appeared that both he and Tate had carved their names into FSU-Miami lore. Blackman for his fourth-quarter heroics, and Tate for grinding out catches and yardage despite the throbbing pain lingering in his injured left shoulder.
The thing about rivalries, though, is that they require balance. Each side must regularly get the best of the other for it to truly mean something.
For the last seven years – back when Florida State’s seniors were in the ninth grade – Miami hadn’t held up its end of the bargain.
On Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes finally did. Rosier was just 3 for 7 on the game’s final drive, but those three were crucial – a 17-yarder to Berrios on third-and-10, an 11-yard strike to Berrios on a later third-and-10 and, finally, the touchdown pass to Langham.
After seven years of having their hearts broken by Florida State, the Hurricanes finally returned the favor.
“We didn’t make all the plays,” Fisher said. “They made one more. But at the same time, there’s no reason to hang your head after that football game. We’re sad, we’re disappointed. There’s no doubt. But we will play.”