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Miami Hurricanes Football: Three Stars From the FSU Game

When they needed it most, these player lit the way for a Miami win.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The destination is not immediately clear, but comes into focus. The mist of the early season dissipates as you approach and the sun seers through the remainder of the fog ahead. The University of Miami emerges a different team than what the world saw on September 2nd. With a newfound identity, united against a hated rival, the Hurricanes’ transformation appears to have hit full bloom.

The timing couldn’t have been any better. With rivals Florida State making the trip down to South Florida, the stakes of this game transcend your average win/loss scenario. It’s more than holding a victory over a rival until next year’s meeting. It’s about influencing recruits in upcoming classes. It’s about staking claim to being the best football program in the sport’s most fertile state. It’s also about bathing in the misery of another opponent.

For Miami, the next year will feature an infinite amount of arsenal to throw in the face of their tomahawk chopping nemisis. After a 28-27 victory, the bragging rights will once again stay in the 305. It was your typical physical, explosive and chippy contest that adds to the luster of one of the best rivalries in all of college football.

For now we give you the players who helped lead the Canes through yet another vicious battle. While there were many contributors, here are the three players who stood out most from the 63rd edition of Miami vs. FSU.

Third Star

Michael Pinckney

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Pinckney’s interception in the third quarter fed into the momentum giving the Hurricanes offense the ball inside the redzone. Consider that Pinckney piled up five tackles, a tackle for loss, one PBU to go along with the INT, No. 56 was certainly a nightmare for the Noles this evening.

Second Star

Jonathan Garvin

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami
You can’t keep this spider down as DE Jonathan Garvin was nearly unblockable all day long.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Entering today’s game, defensive end Jonathan Garvin ranked second on the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles-for-loss. It’s hard to overshadow Gerald Willis, but the Lake Worth, Florida, DE came pretty close today. Getting the better of this match up, Garvin counted for two tackles-for-loss, both of which counted for sacks, on five tackles adding a pass breakup to turn in yet another productive day on the edge for one of the most underrated edge-rushers in the nation.

First Star

Joe Jackson

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There may have been two players that wore the number 99 this afternoon, but it was the one that wore the green jersey that provided the largest impact for his defense. Joe Jackson made FSU’s offensive tackles into revolving doors, bull rushing, ripping through or simply manhandling whomever was placed in front of him. Jackson’s four tackles, two tackles-for-loss and two sacks propelled the Canes’ defense to yet another stifling performance.

Honorable Mentions

The second start for N’Kosi Perry hit some rough waters. For the first time in his young career, the Canes’ pivot had to overcome adversity in the form of free defenders in his face as well as leading his team back to from a deficit. The former is a testament to the blocking upfront for UM’s new QB, yet the decision-making of Perry is much improved from the film put forth last month. It helps to have uncanny mobility to escape the initial Seminoles’ rush, keeping his eyes downfield and throwing an off-kilter missle to a wide open target. Perry ended the day passing for 204 yards, completing 13 of 32 pass attempts to go along with four touchdowns. The addition of 10 carries for 28 rushing yards was the perfect dessert to a main course feast of the FSU defense. The completion percentage is not great, but the experience of this game should pay dividends for player and team moving forward.

Gerald Willis III has flirted with the top three in each game this season. And with the stakes this high, the defensive tackle once again elevated his game. Whether it was being left on one-on-one or drawing a double team, there’s only one person on the planet that can stop No. 9, and that’s G. Swimming past the Noles’ defensive line for five tackles, disrupting the backfield with two tackles-for-loss, and even recovering a fumble in a rivalry defined by in-state talent, it’s a New Orleans native that rose above this afternoon.

After being kept out for the past couple weeks with a hamstring injury, it was great to see the the return of Jaquan Johnson to the field. Having the defensive leader return in a key game against a rival was priceless — well, at least for the Hurricanes. FSU paid the price, with ‘The Franchise’ accounting for 10 tackles to punctuate an impactful return the likes you see from the WWE.

Appreciate Brevin Jordan while he’s here, because it probably won’t be long until we’re talking about Jordan as top pick the NFL Draft. The TE showed it all off today, blocking down field, moving the chains with great drive extending catches and of course the 41-yard touchdown reception that gave Miami the go-ahead score. Jordan finished the day with two receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Travis Homer picks up two yards here, three yards there. That’s what happened today against the Seminoles, as Homer was able to break through for 77 rushing yards, with a 3.3 yards-per-carry average.

Apparently, FSU QB Deondre Francois did not read the scouting report on Miami’s senior cornerback, Michael Jackson. The Seminoles tested the Hurricanes’ star corner, with the results coming back as an “I” — representing the incompletions caused by Jackson’s stellar defense against Seminole receivers all afternoon. Jackson was a man on a mission more than one in a mirror, deflecting passes and shadowing Seminole receivers in their route. FSU tried Startin’ Something, and Mike Jackson put a wrap on that fairly quickly with three pass breakups.

The junior wide receiver extended his team leading touchdown receptions to six after hauling two crucial touchdowns receptions from N’Kosi Perry. A three catch, 33 yard receiving performance was the highlight of a feast or famine effort from the Maryland native.

Dee Wiggins entered today with zero catches. Wiggins one receptions that helped extend a Hurricane drive in the first quarter was clutch. Just as important, the freshman drew two pass interference penalties on the FSU defense, helping Miami move into a better position to put points on the board. Well done freshman.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After storming out of the gates this season, WR Jeff Thomas’ production has taken a nosedive over the past couple weeks. Coming off back-to-back games with only a reception, Thomas returned to elite form at the expense of the Noles’ secondary. Thomas chewed up his matchup to the tune of 76 receiving yards, 25.3 yards-per-catch and a touchdown, highlighted by a SC top-10 worthy TD snag. FSU K Logan Tyler tried to take Thomas out of the game, but No. 4 was not going to be denied. You can only bottle the electricity of this St. Louis native for so long, and his performance today sparked the Canes toward success.