TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There were a few moments here on Saturday afternoon, right around when Cam Akers scored a touchdown that cut Florida State’s deficit to seven, and then when the FSU defense got a quick stop its next time out, that the Seminoles seemed destined for a memorable rally.
One that would’ve dealt the Miami Hurricanes the same type of heartache they handed the Seminoles a year ago. And, more importantly, one that might have sparked FSU toward a strong finish to the regular season.
It didn’t happen.
Florida State cut a 14-point deficit to seven early in the third quarter but could get no closer. Miami’s Jarren Williams then made the result official with a 56-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter that helped the Hurricanes to a 27-10 victory in front of 63,995 fans at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Seminoles (4-5, 3-4 ACC) will look to get back on track in next week’s conference finale at Boston College (noon, ACC Network). The Hurricanes (5-4, 3-3), winners of three straight over FSU for the first time since 2000-2004, host Louisville.
“Of course, we’re frustrated with the loss,” FSU head coach Willie Taggart said. “To be honest with you, words aren’t going to make it better right now.”
WATCH: Noles fall behind early in loss to Canes
Paced by first-half passing plays of 42, 39 and 34 yards, the Hurricanes built a 17-3 lead at halftime. The Seminoles answered with a six-play, 62-yard drive that ended in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Alex Hornibrook to Akers, but otherwise couldn’t get much going against Miami’s defensive front.
Akers managed just 66 rushing yards on 22 carries, while Hornibrook, starting for the second consecutive game, completed 17-of-24 passes for 135 yards. He was sacked eight times, and the Hurricanes finished the contest with nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
“I mean, it was every play back there – the quarterback not having time to get rid of the ball,” Taggart said. “That’s very disappointing. Didn’t think that was going to happen. We knew they had a good D-line and good defense but didn’t think that would happen to us.”
“If you’re getting dominated up front, there are not a lot of things that work,” Miami coach Manny Diaz added. “Obviously we were winning that battle up front.”
As a result, the Seminoles were outgained 353-203 and managed just 2.9 yards per play.
And that despite holding Miami to only 40 yards rushing yards and 1.7 yards per carry – by far the lowest for an FSU opponent this season.
The Hurricanes, however, more than made up for it in the passing game, where they picked on a pair of freshmen defensive backs early and then took advantage of a missed assignment later in the game.
Taggart attributed Miami’s first touchdown to a one-on-one matchup that went to receiver Jeff Thomas. Then, on the last score, Taggart said that there was supposed to be a defender protecting the middle-third of the field.
That, combined with a pass rush that couldn’t break through Miami’s offensive line for much of the afternoon, made for a difficult day in the secondary.
“It’s on us,” said linebacker Emmett Rice, who had a team-high seven tackles. “Coach put us in the right situations to make the plays, it was on us not executing.”
Even still, the Seminoles will head home Saturday night feeling like they let some quality opportunities slip away.
Florida State’s offense had three chances to tie the game after Akers’ touchdown, a stretch that included two quick defensive stops and a Miami field-goal attempt that missed wide right.
But on those three combined possessions, the Seminoles gained 29 total yards and allowed two sacks, one of which lost eight yards right after that missed field goal.
A few moments later, things took a difficult turn when officials waived off what looked to be a penalty for illegal blocking during a Miami punt return.
Had the call stood, the UM offense would’ve started deep in its own territory. Instead, the Hurricanes took over at their 44-yard line and struck the knockout blow on their very next play.
Miami enjoyed an average starting field position at its own 44-yard line, a number aided in part by 10 FSU penalties and inconsistent punting.
“We didn’t flip the field,” Taggart said. “We didn’t do anything offensively. … I thought, offensively and special teams, we didn’t come to play.”
They’ll play again next week at Boston College, in a game that will have heavy implications for the rest of the season. Beating the Eagles would give FSU a .500 record in conference play for the first time since 2016, and it would move the Seminoles one step closer to bowl eligibility.
To do that, though, the Seminoles will have to improve on their performance against the Hurricanes. And, as Taggart said, “we’ve got to get better quick.”
“We have an opportunity, and every opportunity is a positive for us,” Rice said. “We have to get the wins so we can make a bowl.”