As a millennial, die-hard Canes fan who can’t fondly remember the beginning of the Miami dynasty or even the 2001 team, Miami and FSU hasn’t been very fun recently. In fact, it’s been about as much fun as getting your tooth yanked out courtesy of some string and a door.
Year after year, from 2010 to 2016, Miami has been beaten in just about every way by the most-hated Seminoles. Yeah, we’ve seen blowouts led by Christian Ponder and Jameis Winston in 2010 and 2013 respectively, but those don’t quite hurt like the close games. The Noles’ rally in 2014, a near-comeback in 2015, and the horrifying Block at the Rock in 2016 were gut punches to our collective soul. Dalvin Cook haunted my nightmares. Miami and FSU were always almost evenly matched; the Noles were just always a little better.
That’s what made the 2017 game so important; on paper they weren’t so even. Miami was undefeated and 13th in the AP Poll. Florida State lost their starting QB in their first game, were starting a true freshman at the position and were unranked at 1-2. This particular FSU team had stumbled badly and Miami needed to take advantage. They needed to break the streak and get CMR his first win over FSU, something Al Golden never achieved.
Miami started out sluggish on offense, as the first half proved to be a defensive battle. After a 4 play, 32-yard drive by FSU that ended in a punt, Miami ran three plays for three yards. FSU followed suit with three plays and -1 yards. The Canes got the ball back and gained nine yards this time. A fourth punt followed.
The Seminoles would break through first, fueled by the powerful running of Jacques Patrick and a bad roughing the passer penalty on Michael Jackson on a 3rd and 15. However, the one-dimensional FSU offense stalled as it got deep in Miami territory, Blackman unable to find open targets and the stingy Canes’ defense shutting down Patrick. Ricky Aguayo nailed a 27-yard field goal to open the scoring at 3-0 bad guys.
The defensive slugfest continued, as the FSU D gave Miami no room to run and Malik Rosier struggled mightily in the first half, something we would continue to see for most of the season. Back and forth the teams traded punts, Miami’s biggest play coming when Ahmmon Richards beat CB Tavarus McFadden on a slant and took it 14 yards for a first down. Besides that “big” passing play, Miami’s offense included a lot of short runs by Rosier, loss of yards by Mark Walton and incomplete passes.
Miami did manage to bring out the turnover chain late in the first half, with FSU driving into Canes’ territory. With 1:04 left in the half, Michael Jackson redeemed his bad foul earlier by snagging an interception on an ill-advised Blackman pass over the middle. However, the Hurricanes’ offense squandered any opportunity at points before the half ended. The teams went into halftime with a 3-0 Seminoles’ lead. How did it look for the Miami offense? Pretty, pretty, pretty bad. They gained 54 yards, converted 1/8 third downs and were nearly doubled up on in time of possession. Rosier completed five passes on 17 attempts. Miami desperately needed a jolt heading into the last half of the game or would find themselves losers of eight straight against the Noles.
They received that jolt in the form of a pass interference penalty on the first play of the 3rd quarter, moving the ball up to the Miami 40. From there, Rosier would finally start to help carry the offense to their first points of the afternoon. The junior signal caller ran for 15 yards and threw for 45 more. Ahmmon Richards accounted 32 yards on a 3rd and 20, releasing off the line of scrimmage and finding the open spot in the FSU zone, allowing Rosier to hit him in a stride for a play that put Miami in Florida State territory for the first time.
However, the FSU defense held strong, limiting Miami to a 31-yard Michael Badgley field goal to even the game at three apiece.
Miami had a tremendous opportunity the very next offensive play, when Dee Delaney stole a pass from Blackman and set Miami up with the ball at the FSU 47-yard line. But Rosier’s inconsistency reared its ugly head, driving Miami to the 32-yard line before a redzone interception halted the potential-scoring drive and saved FSU from trailing for the first time.
The Hurricanes wouldn’t have to wait long after that missed chance, a three play, four yard drive by FSU leading to a phenomenal punt return by Braxton Berrios. The senior receiver caught the line-drive punt at the Miami 35, turning upfield and veering toward the left sideline. The angle the FSU defenders took was too shallow, allowing Berrios to get to the corner and accelerate, getting 44 yards before running out of space on the sideline and being knocked out. As a side note, a ref on the play mistakenly threw his flag instead of a beanbag to note where the ball was being caught. It very possible that FSU’s bad angles were a direct result of thinking the play was dead.
With Miami catching a break, they didn’t let up. Rosier made his prettiest pass thus far, tossing a back-shoulder strike to Berrios who streaked for the endzone. The senior started and finished the lightning-fast drive, giving Miami their first lead at 10-3.
There was no room for comfort even after the Hurricanes grabbed their first lead, the two teams trading punts for each of their next possessions. The fourth quarter would begin with FSU in control of the ball. In this last quarter, a high-scoring football game would break out.
The ghost of Dalvin Cook reappeared, this time possessing freshman RB Cam Akers, who gashed Miami for 46 yards on the first play of FSU’s drive. Five plays later, Blackman tossed a perfectly-thrown ball to an open Ryan Izzo in the endzone. Tie game.
Rosier and the Canes’ offense couldn’t respond following the Seminole score. A three play and five yard drive saw Rosier go 0-2 and Zach Feagles came out to punt once again. Florida State would get the ball and go right back to work, Blackman’s precision passing torching the Miami secondary as the freshman QB was heating up. The Miami defense, however, refused to be run over, three straight runs leading to a 4th down field goal, making it 13-10 Seminoles.
The Canes wouldn’t go quietly, even as it seemed possible that another heartbreaking loss was underway in Tallahassee. Rosier moved the offense downfield with turbo speed, completing consecutive passes of 15, 37 and nine yards to move Miami from their own 25 to the FSU 14. Three plays later, Rosier found his favorite target, Berrios, for another perfectly-thrown touchdown pass. Lofted over the FSU defender, Berrios ran under it and gave Miami the 17-13 lead. Unfortunately the lead-taking drive came at a price; Miami lost Mark Walton for the remainder of the season.
On their third straight scoring drive, Florida State kept the ball and clock moving to make Miami’s eighth straight loss seem all but guaranteed. Blackman started 2-2, 15 yards as the Noles’ offense moved toward midfield. Akers and Blackman kept the ball on the ground and burned more time, needing a touchdown but hoping to play keep away on what seemed like the last chance FSU had. A 15-yard pass to Auden Tate put the garnet and gold at the Miami 31.
Trent Harris seemed to step up and make the big play when the defense needed it most, sacking the FSU passer for a six yard loss on first down. But the very next play, Blackman shredded the Miami secondary, throwing a 15-yard pass to Nyquan Murray and setting up a crucial 3rd and 1. Akers powered his way through the Miami defense, gaining two yards and giving FSU a fresh set of downs. They wouldn’t need more than one play though, as Blackman threw what seemed like the game-winning touchdown to an absolutely wide-open Auden Tate. 20-17 FSU. 1:24 remaining.
At this point, all hope seemed lost. Rosier had his moments but was up and down the entire game, barely able to put two straight good drives together. In the biggest game, the biggest moment of his life he would have to step up and vanquish the demons of seven previous heartbreakers.
After a kickoff for a touchback, Miami quickly found itself in 3rd and 10 after two straight incompletions. The tomahawk chop chant filled the stadium as Rosier took the snap. He was 4/12 on third down so far, 60 total yards. As he did almost all year, Rosier made the play when his team absolutely had to have it, stepping up and delivering a dart to Berrios for a first down. Travis Homer ran two straight plays following the big first down, gaining 24 yards and putting the offense right on the precipice of Badgley’s range.
More incompletions followed, two straight. And like déjà vu all over again, on 3rd down and 10, Rosier, pumping up the FSU crowd before the play, threw to Berrios on a shallow cross. The senior turned upfield and broke a tackle on his way to an 11-yard gain and another first down. 11 seconds remained. Miami was in field goal range with one timeout left. They could tie the game and send it to overtime. It’s safe to say that Mark Richt still had visions of the previous year’s blocked kick when he made his decision.
Miami had enough time for a quick endzone throw and, if it fell incomplete, a field goal attempt. But Rosier had to not take a sack and, even more importantly, not throw an interception. He did both of those, and broke the losing streak too while he was at it. FSU sent five men, dropping seven in coverage, Darrell Langham lined on the short side of the field against FSU’s best corner, McFadden. Rosier dropped back, turned, and lofted it high in the air on his receiver’s back shoulder, allowing Langham to shield the ball from McFadden with his bigger body.
Langham caught it, turned and fell into the endzone. Touchdown. FSU fans were stunned. Crushed. It was a familiar feeling but for the first time in a long time, Miami was on the right side of this rivalry. Just to amp up the pressure and drama, a lengthy review of the play kept both teams’ and their fans on edge. The ruling on the field stood. A successful extra point and kickoff return later and Miami had finally, mercifully, closed out a game against FSU for the first time since 2009. Miami was victorious in Tallahassee and remained undefeated, and had a QB starting his fifth game and a receiver with three previous career receptions to thank for it.