Date: November 15, 2014
Location: Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Opponent: Miami Hurricanes
When you think about Jalen Ramsey, certain adjectives probably come to mind. Fiery. Competitive. Confrontational. Verbose. Confident— check that: cocky. But there’s a very undersung aspect of Ramsey’s game that has guided him from All-American honors at Florida State to All-Pro status in the NFL and arguably the best cornerback in the league: intelligence. No one can argue Ramsey’s ridiculous ability, and his talent, combined with underrated football smarts, have made him the player that he is. And they were both on display, in the course of a single play, when Florida State traveled to face Miami in 2014.
The stakes are always huge when the Seminoles and Hurricanes tangle, and the ’14 showdown was no exception. The ’Noles hadn’t lost to the ’Canes since 2009 and had not fallen in Miami since 2004— the latter of which is a streak that remains intact. Moreover, FSU hadn’t lost a game, to any team, since 2012, a run that included a national championship in 2013. And sure, every winning streak comes to an end. You just hope it doesn’t happen in a bitter rivalry.
But early on, it looked like that’s exactly what was going to happen against the Hurricanes on the night in question. Miami jumped out to a 16-0 lead over Florida State, an advantage that held into the second quarter. With each passing moment, UM grew more confident, as did its fanbase, well rested from the last time it had shown up for a game, two years prior.
FSU retaliated, as it did time and again during the 2014 campaign, largely due to clutch kicks from Roberto Aguayo and the heroics of freshman running back and Miami-native Dalvin Cook. Florida State did not hold a lead until the second of Cook’s two touchdown gallops came late in the fourth quarter to make it 30-26, Florida State.
But in a game that would end with Miami besting FSU with 492 total offensive yards, one stand remained. With the gap at four, certain aspects of the denouement were obvious: this one wouldn’t come down to a kick. And overtime wasn’t a realistic possibility. It was a simple battle: the Hurricane offense against the Seminole defense.
The ’Canes were on the move, having advanced the ball to the ’Nole 43. But on fourth and nine, Ramsey slammed the door shut on any prospect of a UM comeback. He jumped a deep crossing route off the arm of Brad Kaaya, made a clean interception, and then — and this is really the best part — slid down to ensure an FSU win.
The more athletic equivalent of taking a knee, Ramsey’s decision to down himself may not have been the sexiest choice. But it was the smart call— the winning call. Yes, he could have turned it upfield, added to his INT return-yardage total, and maybe even scored against a bunch of offensive linemen and skill players equally out of position to make a tackle and likely sapped of any desire to do so, having seen their opportunity to beat FSU squandered on yet another Kaaya choke job against an elite opponent in a big moment.
Frankly, if Ramsey wanted to register a pick-six, I think he would have. But we all know how chaotic college football can be. A lucky poke from a desperate Hurricane could have dislodged the ball. Even if Ramsey weren’t touched, he could have fumbled while exchanging the pigskin from one arm to another. Instead, he executed the more athletic equivalent of taking a knee. And in doing so, he secured the W for the ’Noles.
And that’s why this play serves as an apt microcosm for Ramsey’s FSU career, one that will never be defined solely by his amazing gifts. On this play, his explosive ability was balanced perfectly by his humility to drop down, slide across the turf, and show himself as not just a playmaker, but a play — and game — ender. Ramsey removed all doubt of the Seminole victory. Florida State collected its piece of the Miami turf, returned it to Tallahassee, and buried it as part of a seven-game winning streak over the Hurricanes that would go on to equal the longest that the ’Noles have ever had against the ’Canes. For the record, UM has never defeated the Seminoles on seven straight occasions, let alone twice.
That chunk of Miami dirt and grass is interred in FSU’s Sod Cemetery, in large part, because of Jalen Ramsey’s effective balance of primetime hero and pragmatist.