In the end, the Miami Hurricanes again found ways to win everywhere but the scoreboard and another close game was lost due to mental errors, costly mistakes and coming alive when it was too little, too late.
UM had 24 first downs to FSU’s 13, 383 total yards to the Noles’ 259 and three offensive touchdowns to the home team’s one.
Florida State was stifled on the ground, being held to 63 yards by Miami’s defense and although the Canes held a 113 to 18-yard offensive edge in the first quarter, turnovers and mistakes did UM in yet again.
Such has been the case for Miami in all five losses this seasons. All winnable games with do-or-die moments where the Canes fold, have a brain fart or make an unforgivable mistake.
Jacory Harris, solid all season and seeming to have put last year’s mistakes behind him, was a respectable 20-for-31 for 225 yards, but again had a game-defining mistakes.
Weeks back it was an inexplicable fumble early in the second quarter against VIrginia, where the ball squirted out of Harris’ hand down 10-0 with a second down on the UVA fifteen-yard line, in a game Miami eventually lost, 28-21.
This time around, a crucial interception that was Harrisesque, reminiscent of the guy under center in 2010.
Facing a 3rd-and-14 from the FSU fifteen in a scoreless game, Harris looked for Tommy Streeter in the end zone, forced a pass and underthrew it, allowing LaMarcus Joyner to pick it off and again this season leaving points on the field.
Miami’s defense stepped up, forced a three-and-out and within seconds, another boneheaded move from the Canes, in a game where every snap counts.
Punt returner Travis Benjamin attempted to field a Shawn Powell punt and misplayed it, at first getting out of the way, but then foolishly attempting to run it down after it sailed over his head. Benjamin made contact and it was eventually recovered by Florida State’s Telvin Smith at the UM twenty-eight.
The defense again stepped up and got another stop, forcing a 37-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal. The Harris interception and subsequent Benjamin turnover, marked at minimum a ten- to seventeen-point swing in an eventual four-point loss.
Both squads traded three-and-outs before Miami’s first score, a nine-play, 47-yard drive that started mid-field and featured a hefty dose of Lamar Miller en route to a two-yard Clive Walford touchdown reception.
Florida State was quick to answer, another example this season where a defense breakdown came on the heels of Miami’s offense stealing some momentum.
Facing a 3rd-and-4 from the UM twenty-one, E.J. Manuel connected with Rodney Smith for a 21-yard touchdown, giving FSU the late second quarter, 10-7 lead.
More frustrating, the fact that safety Kacy Rodgers II could’ve made a play on the ball, but seemed to pull up. Cornerback Lee Chambers – the converted running back – was badly beaten by Smith on the play and while Rodgers appeared to have easily made a play to either bat the ball down or at best, to intercept, he instead froze.
(One would wish Rodgers pulled back in the same capacity weeks back when running into the kicker against Virginia and keeping a drive alive that ended in a seven for the Cavs.)
Most aggravating, the fact that Rodgers was in for the suspended Ray-Ray Armstrong. Had No. 26 put football above a fancy dinner and boasting on a social networking site, who knows how that play would’ve gone down.
On the ensuing kick, a Benjamin return was wiped out due to a hold, starting Miami at its own twenty. After a six-yard pass to Allen Hurns and a six-yard run with Miller, another holding penalty and the Canes faced a 1st-and-20 from the twenty-two.
Harris found Streeter for a twenty-four yard pick-up and another first down, but a false start a play later had Miami facing a 1st-and-15. Back-to-back incompletions had the Canes punting on 4th-and-17.
From there, a Dalton Botts punt bounced ideally into the arms of Greg Reid and eighty-three yards later the Florida State cornerback was in the end zone, his team leading, 17-7.
The Noles marched eighty-three yards on the opening drive of the third quarter and again the Canes defense held strong, stuffing Manuel on a 3rd-and-Goal from the one. Florida State settled for another Hopkins field goal and a 20-7 lead, with both teams’ offenses ineffective the remainder of the third quarter.
As has happened so many times this season, Miami’s offense came alive late. A ten-play, eighty-yard drive after the Hopkins’ field goal culminated with a one-yard Mike James touchdown run on 2nd-and-Goal from the one. The play of the drive proved to be a twenty-eight yard run by Harris on first down from mid-field.
A play later, a 16-yard strike to Walford, almost for a score and stopping at the one before James plunged in. Hurns muffed a sure two-point conversion, making it 23-13 with six-and-a-half remaining.
Miami got another quick stop, shutting down running back Devonta Freeman on a 3rd-and-6. After a touchback, the Canes started the drive at the twenty and eight plays later were back in the end zone.
Harris to LaRon Byrd for sixteen. Harris to Hurns for twenty-five. On a 2nd-and-10 the Noles shot themselves in the foot with a roughing the passer penalty and two plays later, illegal contact on linebacker Nigel Bradham gave Miami a 1st-and-Goal from the ten.
Harris went back to Hurns for eight on second down and with a 3rd-and-Goal, another roughing the passer for Florida State. With new life, James punched in the three-yard score, though momentum was again quickly lost when holder Spencer Whipple muffed a hold on the extra point try. 23-19, Noles.
Botts executed a perfect onside kick, but Florida State recovered and two plays later ran out the clock. Another loss in the books an another comeback attempt falling short.
Losing sucks. Even worse, losing to Florida State. Worse than that, beating those pukes everywhere but the scoreboard and knowing that yet another game got away.
Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch called a solid game and for the first time in a while, Mark D’Onofrio and his banged up, depleted defense made plays as wasn’t the scapegoat.
This was one of those crazy, unorthodox games and as has been seen a few times now this year, wound up a loss due to a few miscues. A penalty. A mental error. Zigging instead of zagging.
What if Harris doesn’t throw that pick? What if Benjamin doesn’t misplay that punt? What if Rodgers makes a better play on the ball? What if that Botts punt goes anywhere but perfectly into Reid’s arms? What if. What if. What if.
It’s been a season of what ifs, but even with five losses, there’s pride to be taken in the fact that Miami has become a program that doesn’t quit.
Battling to the end and losing doesn’t bring immediate solace, as there are no moral victories, but it proves that on some levels these coaches are getting through and this staff isn’t losing games – which was the case the better part of last decade.
These Canes are improving under Al Golden and will continue inching closer to being a relevant, dominant program again. Miami has twenty-seven recruits set to sign in February, including three-star wideout Rayshawn Jenkins, who verballed earlier today.
Game by game, day by day, inch by inch and player by player, Miami works to get one step closer back to ‘The U’ status.
Next up, a road trip to South Florida on Saturday November 19th. Kickoff is at 3:30pm ET, taking place at Raymond James Stadium and the game will be televised on ESPN U. – C.B.