It started in far too a familiar fashion for this Florida State defense. Another offense began the game gashing the Seminoles’ defensive troops. Time after time Miami starting quarterback Brad Kaaya shredded the Seminole secondary with precise throws, while Duke Johnson kept drives alive for the Hurricanes on the ground. The Noles seemed to have no answer for the freshman signal caller and the Miami offense.
"Teams just come out ready to play us and we have to learn to come out and match their intensity from the first snap", defensive back Jalen Ramsey said.
As the Noles looked up at the scoreboard leaving the field at halftime to the locker room they saw a 23-10 deficit in which they gave up 320 total yard to the Miami offense. The Hurricanes ran 39 plays for a 8.2 yards per play average, feeling confident heading into the break.
That's when, as they have numerous times this season, the Florida State defense hunkered down to play a fantastic second half of defense.
"There was adjustments we had to execute", linebacker Reggie Northrup said. "We kept our heads up at halftime and just said 'c'mon we got this' and went out did what we had to do."
"Me and some of the other leaders like Jalen, Rashad, and Terrance told each other we need to play Florida State football and we came out in the second half and stopped them", added defensive end Mario Edwards Jr.
Stop them they did, holding the potent Hurricane offense to just 172 yards of total offense on 35 plays, for a paltry 4.9 yards per play. The Seminole defense forced three turnovers in the half giving new life to an offense that was busy turning the ball over on its own.
After a fantastic first half for Kaaya the freshman signal caller was stymied by the FSU defense in the second half as he went just 6-17 for 76 yards and an interception. Miami scored just three points the entire second half after pouring in 23 in the first.
"Like coach says, we love, trust, and believe in the process", Edwards Jr. noted. "Not for one second did we think we that just because they jumped on us in the first half that we were going to lose."
"When our defense gets rolling, they are really hard to score against", quarterback Jameis Winston added.
A lot of credit must be given to defensive coordinator Charles Kelly for the adjustments he made in the second half to stifle the Miami attack. Jimbo Fisher noted that the Noles went to more of a nickel base to counter Miami's wide receiver and athletic tight end Clive Walford. FSU used a heavier package throughout the first half in order to stop Hurricane all-world running back Duke Johnson. While they did handle him in the opening half, it allowed Kaaya and the passing game to take advantage of FSU's linebackers, who are poor in pass coverage. The second half adjustment proved too much for Kaaya and the Canes.
"We did more nickel in the second half to match-up better with their receivers", Ramsey said. "Coach Kelly is a tremendous coach and he really put that fire in us at halftime, we trust him a lot."
Florida State outscored Miami 20-3 in the second half thanks in large part to the effort of the defense to keep the Hurricanes at bay for the last 20 minutes of the game. While the Noles may have obvious flaws, it's clear that as a team they won't be held down for a full 60 minutes. If a team wants to end the 26 game winning streak they will have to outfight, out-gut, and out-heart this Seminole squad for the game's entirety. Lead by this defense, Florida State knows when to flip a switch and rip the hearts out of the opposing team's stomach.
"They are a family, they play for each other, they never panic, said Jimbo Fisher. "They look each other in the eye and they handle the next play."
As they handle the next play, this Seminole team finds ways to stay alive and fight another day.