No. 12 Canes Dominate in Fourth Straight Win over FSU

by David Villavicencio

Chirinos: Defense Delivers Against FSU

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Most Miami-Florida State meetings are close, hard-fought contests, but this was an atypical rivalry game.

The No. 12 Hurricanes dominated the in-state rival Seminoles, putting up record numbers on the way to a 52-10 victory before a sold-out crowd of 12,806 fans inside Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday night. Miami’s 52 points are the most by either team in a single game in the 65-meeting history of the Miami-Florida State rivalry series, but the night got off to an awkward start due to looming inclement weather.

“Really proud of our guys. It was 2020 in a nutshell. We get to the stadium, we’re getting ready to go into warm-ups and you find out there’s the possibility of going into a lightning delay,” head coach Manny Diaz said. “There was talk that it might be an hour long. So, again, it takes your routine, it takes your best-laid plans, like everything this year, and it kind of skews them. We ended up getting the green light that we were going to kick-off on time, but we had to completely change our warm-up routine. Everything was different for the guys and, like they’ve done with everything this year, they handled all of the adversity of just the lack of routine and structure. And they handled it so well. To get the ball—we were a little bit weird in pregame warm-ups. You could see some of the guys not in their routine, but then that ball gets snapped and we focus great first drive, really take control of the first quarter of the game. So, like I say every week, I’m in awe of our guys and their ability to adjust with all of the things that at them in this challenging year. And they were worthy victors tonight.”

Miami posted 38 points in the opening half, marking the most points scored by the Canes or Noles in a single half over their 65 meetings in series history. The Hurricanes’ dominance went beyond the scoreboard, as they totaled 333 yards – 222 passing yards and 111 rushing yards – in the first half, while holding the Seminoles to just 105 total yards, posting nine tackles for loss, five sacks and forcing two turnovers in the opening 30 minutes of action.

The Hurricanes (3-0, 2-0 ACC) announced their presence on the opening drive, marching 75 yards on 13 plays to get on the scoreboard just over five minutes into the game. Tight end Brevin Jordan hauled in a pass from D’Eriq King over the middle of the field and scored a touchdown from 24 yards out. The touchdown was Jordan’s third in as many games and gave Miami a 7-0 lead.

The Seminoles (0-2, 0-2 ACC) appeared ready to even the score, driving 68 yards on their opening possession to the Miami 2. But the Canes forced an incomplete pass by James Blackman on third and goal and a false start on fourth down by FSU right guard Baveon Johnson backed the Noles up to the UM 7. Ryan Fitzgerald made a 26-yard field goal to put Florida State within four, 7-3, with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter.

“Obviously, I do think we had a great attitude and a great focus all week, and I think it showed in the way we started the game,” Diaz said. “It’s hard to play and have a bye. We learned that a year ago. We know that’s a very difficult position for Florida State to be in, so we wanted to really start because sometimes you lose your game edge when you really don’t start a season and get in that game rhythm. So, again, very proud. And I’ll tell you that locker room right there is not satisfied. They still know that we can play a lot better. We left some things out on the field.”

Miami’s offense got right back to work on its next possession, running a 15-play 79-yard drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by junior Cam’Ron Harris. The scoring drive marked the eighth time Miami found the end zone on a drive of at least 75 yards this season.

“I felt the key to the game was our possession downs, third down and fourth down, especially early in the game,” Diaz said. “We talk about being relentless on offense, but you got to stay on the field. When you look at 11-for-16 on third down, which means you didn’t make five of them, you go 3-of-4 on fourth downs. So, when the down to third, we basically converted every time but one. That keeps the offense on the field. That adds snaps to their defense. So, it may have looked a certain way, but those third-down plays, whether it was the line doing a great job blocking, D’Eriq making throws, some tough catches down the field, I really thought in the first half that was the key to our victory.”

Leading 14-3 with just 19 seconds left in the first quarter, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips darted into the FSU backfield to drop receiver Tamorrion Terry for a four-yard loss. The tackle for loss, which followed an FSU delay of game penalty, put the Seminoles in second and 19 to open the second quarter.

Quincy Roche, who plays defensive end opposite Phillips, followed his teammate’s lead and dropped Jashaun Corbin for a five-yard loss. Corbin false started before rushing for 15 yards on third and 29 from the FSU 6, but the Seminoles punted after taking a net loss of four yards on their three-play drive and Miami regained possession near midfield on its own 43.
“I think any game starts up front,” Roche said. “Any game starts in the trenches with the o-line and the d-line. So, it’s just great. Credit to these guys, we had a great game, dominated up front. And we need more of that. So, I’m proud of these guys and we can enjoy it tonight.”

(Photo by Eric Espada/University of Miami Athletics)

The Hurricanes continued their relentless attack against their rival, taking advantage of two FSU penalties on their three-play, 57-yard drive that ended in a 12-yard touchdown run by Harris. Miami found the end zone in just 59 seconds, increasing its lead to 18 points, 21-3.

Miami appeared to force a second straight three-and-out by the FSU offense, but Mark Pope muffed a wobbly punt by Alex Mastromanno and the Seminoles’ Asante Samuel Jr., recovered the loose ball on the UM 39. The Noles’ positive momentum was short-lived, as quarterback Jordan Travis’ pass was intercepted by Phillips at the FSU 37.

The Canes’ offense continued pouring it on the Noles, as quarterback D’Eriq King hit junior receiver Dee Wiggins for a 40-yard touchdown that put Miami ahead, 28-3, with over 10 minutes remaining in the opening half.

“It starts at practice, him being a leader,” Wiggins said of King. “That’s what we really needed, a leader on offense coming from the quarterback standpoint. And so we just came here to play, worked hard through this week and it was great. Great practices, Monday through Friday. Just came to play and this was the outcome.”

“That’s what we really needed, a leader on offense coming from the quarterback standpoint. And so we just came here to play, worked hard through this week and it was great.”

- Dee Wiggins

King, who connected with 10 different receivers while completing 29-of-40 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns, became the fourth different Miami starting quarterback to beat the Seminoles in the last four years, joining Malik Rosier (2017), N’Kosi Perry (2018) and Jarren Williams (2019).

“First of all, it’s a great win. It’s a big game for us,” King said. “It’s one of the best rivalries in college football and I’m just happy to be part of it.”

Senior linebacker Zach McCloud punctuated another brief appearance by the FSU offense, drilling Blackman for a nine-yard sack that led to another punt by the Seminoles and ended Florida State’s possession after just four plays.

Miami’s fifth touchdown drive of the opening half was an unforgettable one for running back Donald Chaney Jr., as the true freshman capped the 11-play, 70-yard drive with a two-yard run for his first career touchdown.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it felt amazing,” Chaney said. “Just seeing everybody getting hyped and do what they do—what we always do when we score, it felt so good, so good, to have those rings on. It was finally good to feel what my teammates feel and what Cam [Harris] always feels. So, it was finally good to share the moment with them.”

The Canes’ defense continued to get after Florida State, as Roche, Nesta Silvera and Jared Harrison-Hunte and Bubba Bolden recorded sacks, with Bolden’s leading to a turnover on downs and giving Miami the ball on its own 48 with 44 seconds to play.

Rhett Lashlee’s offense took advantage of the short field and picked up three more points, with Jose Borregales making a 30-yard field goal on the final play of the half that sent Miami to the locker room with a 38-3 lead that was the most lopsided first half in the history of the Miami-Florida State rivalry.

Much like their opening possession of the game, Florida State had offensive success on its first drive of the second half. The Noles finally found the end zone, as tight end Camren McDonald caught a 12-yard touchdown from Blackman that made it 38-10.

“That’s a credit to their coaches, credit to them, coming out with a great scheme, great plays drawn up,” Roche said. “If that happens, you know the first drive is scripted, but we kept our poise. We didn’t get busted, came back out and made the necessary adjustments to stop them.”

With Miami threatening on its ensuing drive, Florida State caught a break when Jaylan Knighton fumbled at the FSU 32 and the Seminoles recovered the loose ball and quelled the threat.

With the Noles driving, safety Gurvan Hall was ejected for targeting. Hall joined Phillips, who was disqualified after two first half unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, in the Miami locker room for the remainder of the game.

Florida State appeared poised to score again with the Hurricanes missing two of their top defenders, but Blackman was intercepted in the end zone by Al Blades Jr., and Miami took over possession at its own 20.

The Hurricanes’ offense got back on track with an 80-yard scoring drive that ended in Chaney’s second rushing touchdown of the game, this one from five yards out, to put Miami ahead, 45-10.

“I feel like we’ve gotten better every week this season and I’m just excited to see us keep improving. We got to keep working hard in practice and … achieve our goals for the season.”

Quincy Roche

“People say it’s a rivalry. We try not to treat it as a different game,” Chaney said. “It’s just a regular game, regular season. It’s another game we’ve got to play to win. Got to keep going. The fans, they treat it as a rivalry, but Manny [Diaz] always tells us, winning is simple. Winning is simple, but it’s just the things you got to do to get to win is pretty hard. So, that’s what we focus on.”

Trailing by 35 points in the fourth quarter, Florida State turned to Tate Rodemaker at quarterback and the rookie did not fare well on his first drive. The true freshman threw an interception that hit Miami’s Bolden between his jersey numbers at the UM 37 and the junior returned the pick eight yards to the Miami 45. The interception marked Miami’s third interception of the night, all of which came against three different FSU quarterbacks.

“I definitely felt it and it felt great, man. It just felt great to be out there playing and competing with these guys,” Roche said. “I feel like we’ve gotten better every week this season and I’m just excited to see us keep improving. We got to keep working hard in practice and … achieve our goals for the season.”

Another true freshman scored his first touchdown as a Cane Saturday night, as receiver Michael Redding III caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from N’Kosi Perry that pushed Miami past 50 points on the night. Kicker Camden Price converted the PAT that made it 52-10 and set a new record for points scored by either team in the UM-FSU rivalry series.

With the Seminoles inside the Miami 10, striker Ryan Ragone sacked Rodemaker on fourth-and-goal from the UM 9. The stop marked a team-high six tackles for Ragone, who tied with safety Amari Carter for the most tackles by a Hurricane on Saturday, while Zach McCloud and Gilbert Frierson each added five tackles.

Ragone’s sack was Miami’s sixth of the game and gave the Hurricanes 13 tackles for loss on the night. It also and kept the margin of victory at 42 points, wrapping up the impressive win over the rival Seminoles. The 42-point victory is Miami’s largest against an FBS opponent since Oct. 8, 2005, when the Canes beat Duke, 52-7.

“We just told them in the locker room, we’re going to face our most difficult opponent of the year and that’s not Clemson. No disrespect to them—it’s going to be this off week and, again, making sure everyone makes great decisions, Diaz said. “Again, you lose a little bit of the structure and the routine of game week. We’ll give them a couple off-days because that’s what you have to do during a bye week. So, it’s so important that we give ourselves the opportunity to have everyone in that locker room go play Clemson. So, that more than anything matters. Of course, there will be some guys we get back that are a little bit—bumps and bruises type deals. But, really focused on being smart on this bye week and continuing to protect this program and giving us a chance to play, obviously, a team we’ve got a ton of respect for.”