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October 21, 2012
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Florida State's early miscues were reminiscent of Raleigh.
As if the second half collapse at N.C. State had carried over to the next road performance, there were penalties and turnovers. A double digit deficit made an appearance, too. But in the end, Florida State recovered and powered through rival Miami to nab a rough-and-tumble 33-20 win at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, FSU (7-1, 4-1 ACC) stopped the skid from there, taking a 13-10 lead by halftime and trouncing the Hurricanes (4-4, 3-2 ACC) with 17 more unanswered points in the fourth quarter to balloon its lead to as many as 20.
Florida State did it despite some self-inflicted setbacks, losing two fumbles in the first quarter and racking up 12 penalties for 121 yards on the night.
"I thought we overcame a lot of things, a lot that we caused and some others," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who moves to 5-0 against FSU's two top rivals - Florida and Miami. "We did a lot of good things, but we did some poor things. We had some penalties; we had some balls dropped in the beginning, just some uncharacteristic things. But I tell you what, we kept competing in the game."
The Seminoles' start was abysmal as tight end Nick O'Leary fumbled trying to hurdle a defender on their first offensive play of the game. Miami recovered and punched it in four plays later on a 9-yard Mike James run. FSU would fumble five times in the first half alone, losing two in the first quarter.
Miami nabbed the game's momentum and extended its lead to 10-0 on a Jake Wieclaw 19 yard field goal. A dismal 17-yard FSU punt gave the Hurricanes the ball on the FSU 34 to set up the scoring drive.
But Florida State righted the ship from there, finding fluidity in its offense leading to 13 second-quarter points. A James Wilder Jr. 17-yard touchdown run was sandwiched between 33 and 46-yard field goals by Dustin Hopkins, the last coming three seconds before halftime.
FSU was powered to the lead by 156 total yards in the second quarter alone.
"We didn't get into a frenzy and allow one, two, three bad things to turn into four, five or six," said quarterback EJ Manuel, who was just 3-of-8 for 30 yards in the first 15 minutes. He finished 21 of 31 for 229 yards. "We were able to control that and not let things get out of hand too much and we scored when we had to. That's what kind of kept us in the game and got us this win (Saturday)."
FSU also clamped down defensively, holding Miami to 29 rushing yards. Miami didn't muster a first down rushing while quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 229 yards on 45 attempts.
"They play man and get up in your face and we just didn't really capitalize on a couple opportunities we had. That's the story," said Morris, who made the start despite missing most of Miami's practice during the week and being listed as doubtful on the Hurricanes' injury report released Thursday.
Florida State relied on an effective ground game, totaling 221 rushing yards and three ground scores even after losing starting running back Chris Thompson to a knee injury in the second quarter. He left the field on crutches and did not return.
Wilder and Devonta Freeman were solid in relief. Freeman, a Miami native, rushed 10 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns while Wilder carried it eight times for 51 yards. Twelve of their 18 combined carries came after halftime.
"We're always prepared for it," Wilder said. "We came in, our number was called and we had the opportunity to come in there and fill in for Chris until he came back or however long it takes him to come back, and we did pretty good. We were ready."
Fisher did not comment on the specifics of Thompson's injury following the game.
"We'll have to wait for the MRI on Monday and see," Fisher said. "You know, it's scary. It scared me a little bit but I don't want to make a statement on it yet."
Florida State created breathing room early in the fourth quarter as Miami native Freeman's 3-yard score gave the 'Noles a 23-13 lead. The drive was propelled by a 39-yard pitch and catch from Manuel to Kelvin Benjamin that put FSU inside the redzone.
Freeman iced the game with his second touchdown with 2:45 left to make it 33-13.
With any semblance of momentum long gone and the stadium nearly empty, Miami scored on a passing touchdown with 47 seconds left and the game no longer in doubt.
It made FSU's roller coaster start seem like weeks ago.
"It's tough going on the road and in a rivalry game. I think it was very big for our kids what they did today," Fisher said. "I think it's very big in our development. It's something we haven't done all year. With the environment and all of the things that went wrong, you could have done the same thing we did up at N.C. State but we didn't. We battled through it and kept staying aggressive with what we were doing and the kids fought through it."