Florida State overcomes mistakes and refs to beat Miami 33-20

Mike Ehrmann

Florida State battled mistakes, injuries and officials but still defeated Miami 33-20.

Florida State started out about as bad as could be imagined. After a stop on Miami's initial drive, the Seminoles' offense came out and ran a nice bootleg play to tight end Nick O'Leary. The call made sense, as Miami is weak against the run and was ganging up to stop it early. Unfortunately for Florida State, tight end Nick O'Leary foolishly attempted to leap over a Miami defender and fumbled the football deep in Florida State territory. Miami scored a touchdown on the resulting drive and after running only a single offensive drive Florida State trailed 7-0.

EJ Manuel misfired on the next drive and Florida State was forced to punt. The punt was a rugby-style punt and it went only 17 yards. If called by the coaching staff, it's extremely questionable, as freshman punter Cason Beatty had not attempted a rugby-style punt all season.

On the resulting drive, Miami kicked a field goal to go up 10-0 over the Seminoles, who were favored by three touchdowns.

After that, though, Florida State seemed to take control of the game, though it did not immediately show on the scoreboard.

The Seminoles embarked on a drive of 38 yards, but fumbled on Miami's 33-yard line, netting no points. FSU forced a Miami fumble on the next drive (3 plays, -4 yards), and FSU netted a field goal to cut the lead to 10-3. FSU's defense again forced a 3-&-out (3 plays, 8 yard), and the Seminoles' offense then went 90 yards on 10 plays for the touchdown and a tie game at 10-10.

The drive was extremely costly, however, as senior running back Chris Thompson, Florida State's best offensive player, went down with a knee injury and would not return to the game. Not only was Thompson Florida State's best offensive player, he was their emotional leader. X-rays were rumored to be negative on Thompson's knee, but it would be surprising to see Thompson back any time soon.

Florida State then intercepted Miami after a drive of 48 yards (5 plays). On the resulting drive, Manuel was sacked on a bootleg when Miami ran a corner blitz. It was a bad luck situation for FSU and a good call by the Hurricanes, and FSU was behind the chains and forced to punt.

Florida State then stopped Miami, and went on a 9 play, 46-yard drive of its own that ended in a field goal before the half.

But the story of the first half, other than Thompson's injury, was the calls. The officiating early on was bizarre, with the Hurricanes only being called for a single penalty, while the Seminoles were called for 9.

One call in particularly was extremely important. With 2:58 on the clock, EJ Manuel hit Rodney Smith for a 50 yard pass play. Incredibly, the officials flagged Smith for offensive pass interference, a call for which little justification existed.

On the same drive, Florida State false started with 0:09 left on the playclock. By rule, if an offense false starts in the final minute of a half and the clock is running, a 10-second runoff is enforced. That is, if the offense does not have a timeout. Florida State did have a timeout, and the ACC officials botched the situation, allowing Miami to run into the locker room. The Hurricanes had to be called back out after some incredulous reactions by Florida State's coaches, and Dustin Hopkins booted a 46-yard field goal.

Even with the injuries to Chris Thompson, Xavier Rhodes, Cam Erving and others, and the incredible officiating, Florida State took the lead into half.

2nd Half

Sensing it needed quite a few breaks to beat a superior team, Miami did an onside kick to open the second half. It failed. Cameron Erving returned to the game, apparently recovered from being poked in the eye. Florida State gained a first down, and then faced a 4th-&-1 from the Miami 27. Fisher elected to send on the field goal team, foolishly. Dustin Hopkins missed the kick, though the outcome of the kick is irrelevant to Fisher's lack of understanding of field position. The decision was even more foolish given that Miami has one of the worst run defenses in America.

Florida State's defense forced a three-&-out, and on the resulting drive, Florida State drove 58 yards, but on a 3rd-&-2, Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin was called for offensive pass interference -- the third such call of the game. Hopkins' 35-yard field goal was good to make it 16-10 Seminoles.

After that Miami and Florida State traded punts, then allowed Miami to march for a field goal on a 9-play, 52-yard drive. At the end of the third quarter, FSU held a 16-13 lead.

With eight minutes in the fourth quarter, Florida State had been called for 12 accepted penalties. Miami? Only one.

But Florida State did overcome and take over in the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 33-13 on the strength of a strong run game and a long pass to Benjamin. Miami native Devonta Freeman scored twice, just weeks after his brother was murdered following a Florida State game.

At that point, Florida State had outgained Miami 450 (70 plays) to 183 (57 plays). Miami tacked on a late score to make it 33-20.

Notes

-Florida State is now bowl eligible for the 31st-consecutive season.

-FSU has won four straight games on the road against Miami.

It has been more than 1,000 days since the Seminoles lost to a team from the Sunshine State.

Next game: Duke (3:30 ESPNU)

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