MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 9: Lonnie Pryor #24 of the Florida State Seminoles scores a touchdown while being pursued by Ramon Buchanan #45 of the Miami Hurricanes on October 9, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Hurricanes 45-17. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Florida State came out and dominated the Miami Hurricanes from the opening snap. In a game few believed FSU would win and in which nobody would have predicted a blowout win for FSU, the 'Noles did just that.
The Seminoles' offense torched Miami for an incredible 471 yards on just 60 plays. That's an amazing 7.85 yards per play, which is considerably more than Miami had given up in 20 games. Florida State clearly sandbagged in its previous three games over lesser opponents, choosing to work on specific aspects of its game while holding back a lot of plays. The first FSU score came on a quick screen to running back Jermaine Thomas-- a play FSU hadn't run this season or last (if my memory serves). FSU used quick-hitting plays to keep Miami off balance.
It was expected that Florida State would have good play-calling against Miami as Jimbo Fisher has always had Randy Shannon's number. But what no prognosticator foresaw was the dominant performance turned in by Florida State's right tackle Zebrie Sanders. The junior from Ohio made the Miami's All-American Allen Bailey seem like an afterthought. Sanders has had an up-and-down career at Florida State and it's likely FSU's own coaches didn't expect that. Right guard David Spurlock didn't make the multiple mental errors FSU had come to expect from him. Left tackle Andrew Datko returned from his shoulder injury and was good in pass protection against Miami's many talented ends. It also took the Canes a comically-long time to realize that FSU could not run left behind Datko. Florida State's offensive line had played poorly in pass protection this year, but on Saturday night they dominated Miami's defensive front of future pros.
Florida State's backs had a very productive night behind that line. Jermaine Thomas, Lonnie Pryor, and Chris Thompson all ran hard and protected the football. The backs pressed the edge and when Miami over-pursued, they cut back against the grain. FSU's backs might not have elite talent, but they are well coached by Eddie Gran and really seem to be hitting their stride over the last four games. Fullback Lonnie Pryor is really an all-purpose all-star with his running, catching, and blocking. 298 yards rushing is an incredible number and credit is due to the entire offense for that effort.
Christian Ponder and the receivers were solid but unspectacular. They didn't make crucial mistakes. Ponder completed 12 of 21 passes for 173 yards, but 8 of the 12 completions went for first downs.
The defense, an abomination just a season ago, was quite good as it held the 'Canes to only 5.0 yards per play (424 on 85). In the preview we noted that FSU would need to play conservatively and make Jacory Harris throw to the sidelines and not deep down the middle because his arm is average at best. The 'Noles did just that, and the plan worked even better because FSU got a few early stops against the run. Miami should have stuck with the run game, but it didn't and that played right into FSU's hands.
Like a powerful fighter with no boxing technique, Harris repeatedly swung for the knockout without properly setting it up. Miami threw the ball an incredibly dumb 49 times, completing only 20. That was good for a QB rating of 75, the best pass defense for the 'Noles in 27 games. The 'Noles disregarded Harris' play-action fakes because they were content to give Miami short gains in order to avoid surrendering the big play.
FSU's defensive line leads the nation in sacks with 26 and was repeatedly held all game, notching just one sack. But the coverage was very good. Corners Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid, and Mike Harris played excellent games, blanketing and harassing Miami's receivers all game long. The Cane receivers were clearly rattled and then dropped at least three passes later in the game. Freshman Lamarcus Joyner filled in for Rhodes in the second half and played very well, corralling an interception late. Florida State's safeties did their jobs of not allowing Miami's receivers to get behind them even if it meant a medium-length gain.
Anticipating a big win, Miami invited many recruits to the game. It was a disastrous move. FSU soundly out-recruited Miami last cycle and is absolutely dominating the Canes this time. It'll likely get worse for Miami as mega-recruit Nick O'Leary was seen hanging outside FSU's locker-room after the game. Miami did not want to play disciplined, physical football. FSU didn't talk about swag. Instead, the 'Noles kept Miami off-balance with play-calling and hit, hit, hit. Recruits saw that and the ABC crew even called Miami out for quitting on national TV.
FSU is now 5-1 and 3-0 in the ACC. There's an excellent chance that the 'Noles will win the Atlantic Division for the first time in half-a-decade. FSU now plays a noon game against a BC team that features a good defense and a terrible offense.