If you’re a Florida State fan, you probably slept a little better than you may have anticipated last night. Many Seminoles tuned into Saturday evening’s Florida vs. Miami (FL) game uneasy, as it’s always difficult to watch your two chief rivals battle. The popular sentiment among ’Noles was that the preferred outcome was a close, ugly game. Did this one ever deliver.
In case you missed it, the Gators outscored the Hurricanes 24-20, and have, therefore, been awarded a win, because football rules dictate that the team finishing with more points be declared victorious, regardless of how atrocious, even if entertaining, the game is.
But let’s be fair: this wasn’t even a week-one game; because it was moved up, this was technically classified as “week zero.” And it really could have been dubbed a massive “weak zero,” since while every team is afforded some rustiness after a summer of beating up on itself, this was particularly bad. Like Bird Box bad. Like blindfold-yourself kinda bad, Sandy.
No. I take that back. It was horrendously awful, but still a spectacle, so remove that sheath, girl from the speeding bus, and let’s look back at just how this game was, potentially, so visually encouraging for FSU fans.
Let’s begin with the penalties— specifically, my favorites. My gold-medal sequence was when Miami coach Manny Diaz drew immediate criticism for dispatching his field-goal team on fourth and short, faked the field goal and converted, after which his kicker ran across the field celebrating, while the gain was nullified by a holding penalty on Miami but still wound up as a first down because a Florida defender had to protect the Gatorade from said kicker by hitting him five yards out of bounds. And here’s how awesomely badly this game was executed: that all happened in one play.
The silver goes to Florida committing blatant defensive pass interference to keep the game alive on Miami’s final drive on a pass well short of the line to gain on fourth and 34. Bronze: UF’s next DPI on third and 12, later in the same drive.
All told, Tweedles Dumb and Dumber combined for 23 penalties totaling 225 yards. (Here's to our ever-dwindling clock of sitting in judgement after a 5-7 season, right?)
Continuing the theme of that sloppiness were the turnovers. Of five combined fumbles in the game, Miami extended its luck from last season, recovering four of them, while also plucking a pair of picks from UF. But after securing four turnovers, UM mustered just three points therefrom, while UF turned its lone takeaway into seven. And that was probably the difference in this one. I’m not sure what the turnover chain would fetch at a pawn shop, but it certainly wasn’t exchanged for points on Saturday night.
Along with stupid, sloppy play, another big takeaway from this one was the dreadful state of Miami’s offensive line. The ’Canes allowed 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss, utterly falling apart up front as the game wore on. If you’re looking for exemplary OL play, the Seminoles-Hurricanes matchup may be one to skip. But credit where it’s due: the UF defensive front can really get after it. Nine Gator defenders contributed to at least .5 tackles for loss, compared to five for Miami.
But was it really the Florida defensive front’s dominance, or the Hurricanes’ OL ineptitude? Miami’s rushing performance suggests the latter. Because when you subtract yards lost to sacks, the ’Canes still averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
Conversely, UF’s offensive line did far better in protecting Feleipe Franks, allowing just a lone sack. But it was terrible running the football, as the Gators managed just 1.9 YPC, 2.3 adjusted for that sack.
Let’s move on to the quarterbacks. Despite his seemingly endless self-promotion throughout the game, Franks was nothing special, completing 17-27 passes for 254 yards, a couple of scores, and two INTs, while proclaiming after the game, “I was in my zone.” Okay. That zone will work just fine for FSU and the rest of the Gators’ opponents.
Freshman Miami QB Jarren Williams didn’t exactly set the world on fire either, showing both sides of a young, talented player. He can be quite evasive, but he often falls back on that skill too often without the feel for when a hit is coming from the blindside. This could result in very feast-or-famine results for the ’Canes. He’ll make some special plays, but that ball is going to continue to be dislodged. If we ever reach a day in which UM doesn’t magically fall on the ball ever time it comes bouncing loose, then the Hurricanes could be in trouble.
Neither signal-caller was especially effective in converting on third downs. Franks and UF went 2-10, Williams and Miami: 2-13. But the ’Canes were far better in creating chunk plays. They hit eight passes of 15+ yards, and four runs of 10+ yards. The Gators had a woeful three of each. On a big night for college football, there were not a lot of big plays for UF, which was also aided by a missed 27-yard fourth-quarter field goal from Hurricane kicker Bubba Baxa that could have changed the result of the game.
(Callback: this miss happened just four plays after Baxa ran across the field like he’d just been named the King of Mardi Gras following the aforementioned FG fake that didn’t count but did— I know, it’s like Back to the Future Part II.)
Regardless, I’m sure every Seminole fan’s heart is just breaking into pieces for a Miami kicker who missed wide right.
Again: yes, it’s early in the season (and early in the morning as I type this). But if these teams don’t work out some serious flaws, it’ll be a long season for both of them.