Oct. 10, 2010
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – As they always do at their home games, the No. 13 Miami football team ran onto the field amidst a cloud of ceremonious smoke Saturday night.
Little did they know, the smoke this time was coming from the candles on Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher’s birthday cake.
Yes, FSU’s rookie skipper certainly celebrated the 45th anniversary of his birth in style at Sun Life Stadium with a 45-17 victory over those rival Hurricanes in a primetime matchup between conference foes.
On a day when other BCS conference state programs Florida and South Florida also lost, the No. 23 Seminoles’ statement win was not only the perfect present for their head coach but it also served as the first signature win of Fisher’s young career; a win that thrusts the national spotlight upon the program and shows just how far the team has come since sustaining its lone loss of the year against Oklahoma.
“We wanted to stay aggressive on offense and defense and that’s the mentality that we maintained all game long,” Fisher said moments after his players doused him with water.
That aggressive mentality saw FSU (5-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) post 471 yards of total offense and come up with huge defensive stops against a talented Hurricanes (3-2, 1-1) team.
Starting quarterback Christian Ponder finished the night with 174 passing yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore tailback Chris Thompson had a career night carrying the football as his 158 yards were a career-best to go along with one score.
In addition to paving the way for a ground attack that finished the night with 298 yards, the FSU offensive line didn’t give up a sack to the vaunted Miami defensive front.
Defensively, Miami was able to post 424 yards of total offense on the ‘Noles but it was the plays that FSU prevented them from making that proved to be the difference. Florida State forced two turnovers and held the ‘Canes to just 6-of-18 on third-down conversions.
Senior linebacker and honorary sod captain for this game, Kendall Smith, led all Seminoles with nine total tackles.
“They just flat outplayed us from the first quarter to the fourth,” Miami linebacker Sean Spence said.
The Hurricanes opened the game with a drive that looked like it might put an early mark on the scoreboard. But after advancing all the way into the red zone, a missed 32-yard field goal by Matt Bosher kept the game scoreless.
Following an FSU punt and then the 20th forced three-and-out of the season by the Seminole defense, the good guys struck first.
Pryor moved the chains with a season-long run of 20 yards that helped set up a 17-yard Ponder to Thomas touchdown pass. The scoring grab marked Thomas’ first touchdown catch of the year and second of his career.
The Seminoles took their 7-0 lead into the second quarter but that quickly changed.
Playing in his hometown for the first time since his mother passed away earlier this season, junior cornerback Mike Harris earned his second forced fumble of the year early in the second period. His stellar play led to a long Nick Moody return to the Miami one yard-line.
Thomas then made it all count on the very next play with a one-yard dash into the endzone.
Up 14-0 in front of the first-ever sellout crowd at Sun Life Stadium for a Hurricanes’ game, Thomas decided to make a little personal history. At the culmination of a fantastic six-play, 68-yard drive, the Seminoles’ starting rusher bounced into the endzone for a six-yard score to move the scoreboard to 21-0.
With that third score, Thomas moved into sole possession of ninth place all-time at FSU with 18 career rushing touchdowns. It also marked the first three-score game by a Seminole since former FSU running back Antone Smith had three against Miami during the 2008 season.
Thomas’ score put the Hurricanes on the ropes but it wasn’t enough to knock them out.
Harris led his squad on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in his three-yard touchdown scramble for Miami’s first points of the night.
On the ensuing kickoff, star returner Greg Reid burst through a seam and took the ball across the 50 yard-line and into Miami territory. Reid’s season-long return of 55 yards was enough to help set up a successful 37-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins that extended the ‘Noles’ lead to 24-7 – an advantage they would take into halftime.
The Seminoles then emerged from the locker room after the break looking as if they had never left the field.
Their first offensive possession went about as well as it could possibly go. Thompson sprinted for a 44-yard gain and then Pryor capped off a quick 69-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown to put FSU on top 31-7.
Unfortunately for FSU, Miami once again was able to find an answer after giving up a score.
The Hurricanes marched down the field on their ensuing drive and Damien Berry’s 26-yard touchdown run cut the ‘Noles’ lead to 31-14 with just over 10 minutes to play in the third quarter.
Miami got a stop on FSU’s next drive and after a couple of questionable defensive penalty calls on the Seminoles, the Hurricanes found themselves in the redzone a few short minutes later. A 36-yard Bosher field goal served as the outcome of that drive and it trimmed the ‘Canes’ deficit to 31-17.
Both teams exchanged two punts apiece late in the third quarter and into the fourth before FSU officially closed the door on any hopes Miami had of a comeback.
Ponder orchestrated a nearly flawless 11-play, 55-yard drive that ate up clock and featured three huge third-down conversions. The final third-down on that drive was a memorable one as sophomore wide receiver Rodney Smith grabbed his first-career touchdown reception on a well-placed 18-yard lob pass from Ponder into the corner of the endzone.
FSU later added another score thanks to Thompson’s career-long 90-yard touchdown sprint with 4:24 left in the game. It was a run that is now the third longest in school history. Only Larry Key’s 97-yarder in 1976 and Sammie Smith’s 95-yarder in 1987 were longer. It was also the longest run ever surrendered by the Hurricanes.
“It’s a real great feeling,” Thompson said. “It’s great to be in Florida State’s history book. You know, that’s not a real easy thing to do.”
Florida State returns to Doak Campbell Stadium after consecutive weeks on the road. The Seminoles will welcome Boston College to town for a 12 p.m. conference matchup that will air either on ESPN or ESPN2, with an official announcement coming on Sunday.