Late in the third quarter, things looked desperate for Miami against rival Florida State. The Hurricanes were barely treading water, down 27-7 early in the third against a Seminole team that might accurately be judged as the worst FSU team in decades. But the Canes wouldn’t die, as the defense led the comeback in the second half, following a Seminoles’ punt return touchdown. After the offense would go three and out on the ensuing possession, the defense brought out the turnover chain with a huge forced fumble and recovery.
A fourth down touchdown pass to Lawrence Cager made the game a little closer, 27-14 as FSU got the ball back. The Noles weren’t playing exceptionally well but quarterback Deondre Francois had made enough plays against the blitzing Canes’ defense to put up points. It would be critical for FSU to continue doing so as the atmosphere on the sidelines and in the stands began to turn around.
On first down, that aggressive defense went right back to work, defensive tackle Pat Bethel sacking Francois for a three yard loss and putting the Noles in second and long. Then, linebacker Michael Pinckney reminded us of why he’s so special. The third year weakside backer recognized the play almost immediately. With FSU lined up in shotgun, Pinckney had a clear view of the Seminoles’ offensive linemen moving upfield despite Francois dropping back to pass.
Barely a second between the ball getting snapped and Pinckney reacting, hecharges downhill, toward where FSU tight end Tre’ McKitty is looking to grab the screen pass. Francois never sees Pinckney, who catches it as if the pass was intended for him all along. If he stays on his feet, it’s six. But regardless, even with a stumble, Michael Pinckney has completely shifted the momentum of a game that looked out of reach only minutes go. Now, the Miami offense is on the doorstep of the endzone, only down by 13.
While there were plenty of dramatic, memorable plays in this comeback victory - Sheldrick Redwine’s forced fumble on Francois, N’Kosi Perry’s game winning touchdown to Brevin Jordan - it was Pinckney’s interception that boosted the energy of the Rock and made fans believe that Miami would complete a miraculous comeback.
The very next play, Jeff Thomas catches another dart thrown by Perry and the score is suddenly 27-21. That defense, anchored by the likes of Pinckney, shut down FSU the rest of the way, while the offense got to deliver the heroics in the fourth quarter. But it was Michael Pinckney who provided the game-changing momentum shift when the Canes needed it most.