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Hidden History: Florida State at Miami


Wayne Messam

Basic Facts

All-time series record: Miami leads 32-30

First meeting: 1951; Burdine Stadium (later known as the Miami Orange Bowl); Miami won 35-13

Most recent meeting: 2017; Doak Campbell Stadium; Miami won 24-20

Largest margin of victory: 1976; Miami Orange Bowl; Miami won 47-0 & 1997; Doak Campbell Stadium; FSU won 47-0

Florida State’s Oldest Rivalry

Unbeknownst to many, the FSU’s oldest football rivalry is with the University of Miami, not that other institution southeast of Tallahassee in Hogtown. While UF was refusing to agree to a game against the Seminoles, the Hurricanes agreed to host FSU in 1951, just five years after FSU became a co-ed university. This fact (along with a shared independent spirit, collegiality between Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger, and a mutual penchant for swagger) is one of the reasons why the rivalry has often been described with a “heated respect,” compared to the pure dislike felt in many other in-state rivalries.

The Hurricanes won the first five meetings between the two schools—four of which were played in Miami—before legendary coach Tom Nugent led FSU to a 17-6 road upset in 1958.

It wouldn’t be until 1969 that Florida State and Miami began squaring off annually, with the ‘Noles winning that 1969 matchup 16-14, again in Miami. Since the two programs starting playing every season, FSU leads the series 26-24.

Doak South...Orange North?

The “Doak South” moniker, referring to FSU’s recent road dominance (and crowd dominance) over the Hurricanes, is well known throughout the fan base. Indeed, as is frequently pointed out, Florida State hasn’t lost a road game against Miami since 2004. What’s less known is that FSU’s road mastery of Miami extends much further into the past than just the last decade and a half.

Of FSU’s 30 wins in the series, 20 have come on the road. In fact, FSU actually holds a 20-17 series lead in games played in Miami—and that lead stretches out to 19-11 when you remove the first nine games of the series, in which Miami went 8-1. Between 1958 and 1984, the Seminoles and Hurricanes faced each other 16 times in Miami. Florida State’s record in those 16 games was a sterling 12-4.

Oddly enough, Miami has enjoyed similar success in Doak Campbell Stadium. FSU didn’t earn its first home victory over the ‘Canes until the undefeated 1979 campaign (keep in mind, that was just the 6th matchup between the two programs in Tallahassee), and wouldn’t enjoy their second home win over Miami for another decade, in the 1989 classic that featured not one, but two top 35 plays in our countdown this summer. Overall, Miami leads the series 15-10 in games played in Tallahassee.

Did You Know?

The last time an FSU defense recorded nine or more sacks in any game happened against Miami in 2005.

A Rare Mismatch?

Last week we looked at how the FSU/Louisville series had been marked by blowouts. FSU/Miami is the opposite, the Bizarro World FSU/Louisville if you will. It’s a tired cliche, but in this case it rings true: when it comes to the ‘Canes and ‘Noles, throw out the records.

Since 2000, 12 of the 19 games in this series were decided by 5 or fewer points. Another one was decided by 6 points, and two others decided by 8. That’s 15 of the last 19 games where the winner and loser were separated by one possession.

Over the entire 62 game series, a remarkable 8 games have been decided by a single point (Miami is 7-1 in those games). Four more games were decided by 2 points (the teams are 2-2 in those games), meaning nearly 20% of all FSU/Miami games have ended with a 1 or 2 point margin.

Perhaps the biggest factor leading to such an even series is the noteworthy similarities between the rise and fall of the two programs. For long stretches of time, when Florida State was bad, so too was Miami. (Looking at you, early to mid 1970s). Then, when FSU enjoyed its Dynasty heyday, Miami was also a giant in the college football world, not quite as consistent but enjoying even higher peaks. Indeed, the 1997 matchup that featured a top five FSU team vs Miami team that would miss a bowl game was one of the rare games in the series that was truly a mismatch (more on that game in a minute).

Which brings us to this year. Will the 2018 edition of this rivalry be another rare mismatch? If it is, that begs another question: when was the last time a legitimately great Miami team beat a legitimately bad FSU team? For the sake of discussion, let’s say “legitimately great” equals any team that finished the year ranked in the top 10, which rules out last season.

Miami beat a couple of arguably bad FSU teams in the mid-2000s, but those Miami teams weren’t all that good either. To find the last time an EOY top 10 Miami team beat an EOY unranked FSU team, one has to go all the way back to 1986—truly a great Miami team. However, FSU—while unranked—wasn’t all that bad, only losing 4 games, 3 of which were to EOY top 7 teams (Nebraska, Michigan, and Miami), and winning a bowl game against Indiana. That resume doesn’t scream “legitimately bad.”

1981 is another potential, here, as Miami finished 9-2 and ranked 8th in the country while FSU finished 6-5, unranked, and wasn’t invited to a bowl game. But again, a closer look reveals that FSU team played much of the season as a top 20 squad and garnered wins over Ohio State, Notre Dame, and LSU—all on the road. Tough to consider that team “legitimately bad.”

Which takes us all the way back to 1956. That season, Andy Gustafson led the Hurricanes to an 8-1-1 record and a 6th place finish in both major polls. One of those eight wins was 20-7 over an FSU team that would finish 5-4-1. Not bad on the surface, but a closer inspection reveals that four of those wins came over Ohio, Furman, Villanova, and Mississippi Southern. That seems legitimately bad to me.

Blowing Off the Dust

Our own FrankDNole posted a nice F(MFFM)eature on the 1997 destruction of the Hurricanes, in which the swarming FSU defense held Miami to just 8 first downs and negative 33 rushing yards. Click here to enjoy video and statistical breakdown of that glorious afternoon. Rumor has it that Frank even took out his dentures and threw them onto the field in celebration after this one.

Thanks to Frank’s great game breakdown, and with the ‘Noles headed down to Doak South, I’ve decided to use this space to feature five Seminole plays against Miami that took place on the road. The plays aren’t necessarily “top plays” in the sense that they were game or season changing. In fact, I didn’t pick any plays that appeared in the top 100 countdown. These are just personal favorites that have begun to collect dust over the years. They are ranked in no particular order and please feel free to add your own in the comment section:

F. Lawrence Dawsey skies for the one-handed grab and then runs over Miami defenders. Part of his 13 catches for 160 yards on the day.

M. Shevin Smith with the scoop and score in 1996 and a dog pile ensues. FSU would go on to win 34-16.

F. P-Dub “Mosses” a Miami DB and then zips into the endzone to open the scoring in 1998.

F. Michael Ray Garvin with a diving interception off the deflection to preserve a 13-10 win in 2006, in a game that featured three total rushing yards by both teams combined.

M. Mister Alexander and Xavier Rhodes combine to lay the boom on LaRon Byrd in 2010’s 45-17 beat down.