A season is a collection of games. And games are a collection of plays. And of those plays, the big ones turn into moments, instances that can and do change the course of events for teams on both sides of the field.
For the Miami Hurricanes, there were lots of games, and lots of plays, and several moments during the 2018 season. But no moment was bigger, or better, than N’Kosi Perry’s 41 yard TD pass to Brevin Jordan for the game-winning touchdown against FSU.
So, you know the moment itself, but how did we get there? How did everything build up to that one throw? Let’s
steal borrow from the SB Nation mothership and do a bit of a Rewinder.
Coming off a win in Tallahassee to FINALLY break FSU’s win streak in this rivalry and shut those insufferable Noles fans up, Miami was looking to win back-to-back games against the Noles for the first time since 2004, which was the final win of Miami’s 6-game winning streak at the time. Coming off 4 straight wins following the disappointing 33-17 loss to LSU to open the 2018 season, Miami was in good shape, and with plenty of momentum, it seemed.
Conversely, the Seminoles, under first year coach Willie Taggart, were scuffling. At just 3-2, and that was buoyed by an EPICLY STUPID collapse by Louisville the week prior to this game, FSU was not looking like a great team. They’d already gotten blown out by VT 24-3 and Syracuse 30-7, and without that stupid, stupid, STUPID decision to throw the ball instead of run out the clock by Louisville — that throw ended up being intercepted and gave FSU the possession they needed to come back and win — things would have been even worse. And, with the worst OL in FBS football, things were not looking good for the Noles.
But everyone knows that Miami and FSU try harder against each other — players and coaches from both sides have said as much many times over many years — so even though it SEEMED like this should be a cakewalk for Miami, most people were expecting a close game.
What most people were not expecting, however, was for FSU to jump out to a huge lead over the Canes. Not with this team. Not this year. No way.
But, that’s exactly what happened.
FSU broke the seal on the scoring with a 17 yard pass from Deondre Francois to Keith Gavin to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. After several stalled drives, Miami finally got things going and tied the game on a 10 yard pass from N’Kosi Perry to Lawrence Cager to cap off a 14 play, 83 yard drive that took up 7:49 of game time.
But, after Miami tied it at 7, FSU went on a 20-0 run from the 2nd quarter into the 3rd to build a 27-7 lead, and things looked bleak for Miami. Ricky Aguayo sandwiched 2 FGs around a Tamorrion Terry TD catch to help FSU build a 20-7 lead at halftime.
Then, DJ Matthews took a punt and returned it 74 yards for a score early in the 3rd to put FSU up 27-7.
It was then that the Canes, both offense and defense, went to work. Perry hit Cager for his 2nd TD of the day, then, after a Michael Pinckney interception, Perry hit Jeff Thomas on a beautiful corner route just 42 seconds later to bring Miami within 27-21 with 4 minutes left in the 3rd.
FSU wasn’t going to go down without a fight, however. Willie Taggart, looking to build off a big win over a rival team, went into his bag of tricks on the ensuing drive.
On 2nd and 7 from Miami’s 45 yardline, FSU went with a quick huddle and tried a double pass. Francois threw the ball on a bubble-screen look to DJ Matthews who then threw the ball to a WIDE OPEN Keith Gavin. FSU had stemmed the tide of Miami’s comeback and pushed the lead back to 14 late in the 4th quarter.
Except they didn’t. The play was — CORRECTLY, MIGHT I ADD — ruled an illegal forward pass; Francois’s initial pass to Matthews was forward, and thusly Matthews’s pass to Gavin was a 2nd forward pass on the same play, which isn’t allowed. So take the points off the board, back it up 5 yards, loss of down, and let’s keep playing.
FSU would convert a 3rd and long on the drive, but end up with nothing to show for it as Ricky Aguayo missed a 43 yard FG.
With the ball back and ALL KINDS of momentum from the TD (correctly) taken off the scoreboard and the missed FG, Miami came onto the field looking to complete the comeback. But, things didn’t start off well.
N’Kosi Perry threw 2 incompletions to start the drive, leading Miami to be faced with 3rd and 10 from their own 27. FSU might not have been a great team, but DE Brian Burns was one of the best in the country, and if there’s anything FSU could do, it was dial up a pass rush in a clear passing situation, especially against Miami’s porous OL.
Even with pressure breathing down his neck, Perry threaded the needle to Jeff Thomas on a seam route for a gain of 32 yards — Thomas jumped high in the air and caught the ball against his helmet/shoulder in the middle of 3 defenders on a PERFECTLY thrown ball — to give Miami a huge 3rd down conversion, and set them up at FSU’s 41 yard line.
Sensing the moment was at hand, Miami dialed up the perfect play. With the same players on the field, FSU didn’t have the ability to substitute, and that allowed Miami to get a match-up/mismatch they’d tried out earlier, to see if it would be there late. This was the knockout punch in the 8th round that a boxer has been testing and timing since the 2nd.
The Canes moved TE Brevin Jordan to the left slot next to WR Dee Wiggins, and FSU reacted to that by putting RS Freshman LB DeCalon Brooks on him. This was a TD by alignment. Brooks, son of former FSU star Derrick Brooks, couldn’t cover Jordan man-to-man, and Perry knew it.
Miami ran a simple “dagger” concept: Wiggins ran a 7 yard in route, which occupied his defender, while Jordan put a quick stutter step on Brooks, and was GONE up the seam.
Not wanting to tip his hand — it was clear he knew he was coming back to Jordan for the deep shot on the play — Perry looked right, towards Brian Hightower and Mike Harley, as he started his drop. But, like I said, Perry knew all along he had a mismatch with Brooks trying to cover Jordan, and he looked right to keep the safety from coming over top and disrupting the play or intercepting the ball.
After a quick 3 step drop from shotgun, looking right the whole time, Perry quickly reset his feet, turned his eyes to the left, and let a beautiful deep ball fly into the Miami sky. The ball would land perfectly in Jordan’s hands — as though Perry had walked and hand delivered it to him — and Jordan made his way to the endzone. Miami would tack on the extra point to take a 28-27 lead, which would be the final margin of victory for the Canes.
After all that, the twisting and turning, the bad plays, the TFLs, the 20 point deficit, the CORRECTLY CALLED illegal forward pass, the missed FG by Aguayo, the INCREDIBLE catch by Jeff Thomas to extend this drive, here we are:
the Miami Hurricanes 2018 Moment of the Year.