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The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Miami and Florida State not the matchup it once was

By Ralph D. Russo The Associated Press

MIAMI – This is certainly not what the Atlantic Coast Conference had in mind when it decided to have Miami and Florida State open the season on Labor Day night.

Instead of showcasing two national title contenders, the primetime Sunshine State Showdown turned into another slog-fest Monday night. Yet another chance for the entire country to see that neither the Hurricanes nor the Seminoles – with a combined seven national titles since 1983 – are to be feared these days.

Florida State came away with a soggy 13-10 victory, which looked a whole lot like last year’s 10-7 victory by the Seminoles, which was awfully similar to the 16-10 overtime game the Hurricanes won two years ago when the game was first moved to the opening weekend.

“It’s a typical Florida State-Miami game,” Miami coach Larry Coker said. “These have been great defensive games and I think you saw that tonight.”

Gary Cismesia’s 33-yard field goal provided the winning margin with 8:01 left in the game. Rarely has a three-point lead midway through a quarter seemed so safe.

There’s no doubt the Seminoles and Hurricanes have fast and physical defenses.

Florida State’s Buster Davis is probably the best 5-foot-10 linebacker in the country. Davis had 10 1/2 tackles and two sacks, hitting with such fury he lost his helmet twice.

Miami’s defensive line is stellar and some NFL teams don’t have safety combos as talented as Kenny Phillips and Brandon Meriweather.

“They’ve probably got as good a defense as there is in the country, unless it’s us,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.

OK, but this is really getting ridiculous, guys. Three yards rushing – combined? A total of 17 first downs. Florida State didn’t get a first down in the second quarter. Miami returned the favor by going without a first down in the fourth quarter. Botched snaps, dropped passes, stray throws and offensive lines that offered little protection.

Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker, whose 34-yard scamper on a swing pass was the longest play of the game and set up Florida State’s TD, was willing to own up to his team’s ugly offense.

“Most of it was us,” the 195-pound scatback said. “We’d have a drive going, setting ourselves up for success, and we’d have a penalty or something bad would happen. We can get a lot better. We didn’t look good at all.”

Florida State ran for 1 yard, that’s it. Only until the Seminoles all but abandoned the ground game in the second half did they start moving the ball enough to muster 10 fourth-quarter points.

Though it’s not like quarterback Drew Weatherford was lighting it up.

The sophomore played better than he did in last year’s Labor Day dud when he completed just six passes. This time around he was 16-for-32 for 175 yards, getting some help from receiver De’Cody Fagg and Booker.

The 6-foot-3 Fagg made two sideline grabs on fade routes- one for 28 yards on the touchdown drive and a second for 18 that helped set up the winning kick – using his big frame to go over a defender.

After Fagg’s 28-yarder, Booker took a dump-off by Weatherford, slipped through linebacker Glenn Cook’s tackle and got to the Miami 5. Fullback Joe Surratt finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to tie it at 10 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

On the next Florida State drive, Weatherford got FSU into field goal range and Cismesia kept it straight for a 13-10 lead.

“I wish I could say that I settled down a little bit, but I didn’t play a sound game as a quarterback,” Weatherford said. “I had two fumbled snaps and I threw an interception.”

Like Weatherford, Kyle Wright was starting his second season as Miami’s signal-caller.

Like Weatherford, he had a so-so first season and entered this season still trying to prove himself capable of becoming the next star at the school once known as “Quarterback U.”

With Bernie Kosar and Gino Torretta watching from the sideline, Wright looked no better than last year. He took more big hits than he made big plays.

Wright went 15-for-19 for 104 yards in the first half as Miami grabbed a 10-3 lead with Charlie Jones’ 4-yard TD run and Jon Peattie’s 20-yard field goal in the second quarter.

Wright then went 3-for-8 in the second half, getting little help from receivers who aren’t making anybody forget Michael Irvin, Santana Moss or Andre Johnson.

Miami hopes that freshman James Shield can become the playmaker it’s been lacking in recent seasons. He wasn’t ready to deliver on Monday, dropping a third-down pass with about 2 minutes left that killed a drive.

Of course, Florida State was unable to run out the clock and the Hurricanes got one more shot with 1:02 left.

When Wright floated a pass into the middle of the field that Florida State’s Ray Garvin picked off, all the Seminoles needed to do was take a knee to win the game.

That they managed to do without a hitch.

The Miami-Florida State game goes back to its traditional date next season in October. Maybe by then the Hurricanes and Seminoles will have cured their ailing offenses and again made themselves into legitimate national championship contenders.

They both have a long way to go.

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