No one had to remind the Seminoles how many times they lost games to Miami over the years through strange circumstances.
That's why it felt so good for Florida State (7-3, 5-2 in ACC) to beat the Hurricanes 23-19 despite getting outgained by 124 yards, losing time of possession by seven minutes, having 11 fewer first downs and producing just one offensive touchdown.
"It means a lot," said quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was 17 of 23 for 196 yards and a TD. "I've watched three of these games, and now to be able to play and start and win, it's huge. I think it's one of those things when I'm 30, 40 years old I can look back and say, 'Yeah, we beat Miami.' It's a great victory."
In one of the strangest games between these two state rivals, a game which included eight video review stoppages by ACC officials, the Seminoles led 17-7 at halftime with just three first downs.
"We found a way to win the game when we didn't play our best," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "A lot of that had to do with Miami, and they did a nice job and we have to fix a lot of things, but our kids are learning. When you start to become a good team, you're not always going to play your best, but you figure out how to win. You're not going to win every game by 25 points. It doesn't work that way."
But this was a critical win, no matter how it occurred for the Seminoles, as they head into their final home game Saturday against Virginia. The win clinches a winning season, becomes the fifth consecutive win since a trio of defeats early in the season and continues to build positive vibes for a chance at a 10-win season with a bowl victory.
Without hope of an ACC title or BCS bowl or New Year's Day bowl, the Seminoles are trying to beat UM and Florida for the second consecutive year and win 10 games.
The Seminoles knew they would get Miami's best, and they did.
"Add another classic. That's what the rivalry games bring out of you," Fisher said. "We're growing through the season. We aren't just learning, and that's what I'm proudest of."
NOTES AND QUOTES
Florida State's sideline and its fans were infuriated with the ACC officiating crew. A strip and fumble recovery by FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner on the game's first play -- ruled a fumble and TD on the field -- was later overturned after nearly five minutes of video review and inaction.
And it only got worse.
Officials ruled a safety on Manuel for intentional grounding in the end zone, then realized, after another long review and debate, his feet were not in the end zone when he threw the ball.
They later ejected linebacker Nigel Bradham for "launching himself at a Miami receiver," except video replay clearly showed that Bradham never left his feet, led with his shoulder and did not hit the Miami receiver in the head. That personal foul enabled Miami to score its final touchdown and force an onside kick.
Following the game, fans slapped windows of a van carrying ACC officials out of the stadium in an ugly scene. It was not a well-controlled, well-officiated game by the ACC, and it has followed a trend that FSU has seen too many times.
"The flow of that game was very weird," Fisher said, choosing words carefully. "It was a different type of game. Rivalry games for the most part [are]. It just wasn't a fluid game from the field positions and the turnovers and the penalties and returns. There wasn't rhythm to the game." ...
ACC Associate Commissioner Michael Kelly and Director of Football Officials Doug Rhoads said they will review Bradham's tackle and determine "if further penalty is necessary," according to an ACC statement distributed to media. "No further penalty is required, but it must be reviewed. This must be done before Monday's practice." ...
FSU finally reversed the recent trend in the Miami series by winning as the home team for the first time since 2005. These two rivals exchanged road wins the past five times. ...
The Seminoles defense held Miami to its lowest total of the season at 19 points. After giving up 203 yards on 40 plays in the first half, the Seminoles defense held the 'Canes to 180 second-half yards on 30 plays. It also marked the fewest points allowed in the series since giving up 10 in a 13-10 FSU victory in Miami. ...
Greg Reid's 83-yard punt return for a score was the fourth longest in school history. But he also fielded punts inside his 10 that made Fisher cringe.
"Greg thinks every play is a touchdown," Fisher said. "That's what makes him great, but also he has to be smart in some situations and he almost had another one. ... Greg's mentality is like that, and I'd rather say 'whoa' than 'giddy up' any day of the week."
KEEP AN EYE ON: TB Devonta Freeman -- The freshman is now the Seminoles' No. 1 tailback, and it's no debate. Freeman produced 97 all-purpose yards, which was more than a third of the Seminoles' total offense. When the Seminoles can get him a running lane or use him in space out of the backfield, he is very good. Best of all for FSU, he will be on this team for at least two more years.
LOOKING GOOD: The Seminoles' special teams won it. Kickers and returners. And given FSU's dubious history against Miami when it comes to kicks, that is the irony when looking at how this series has turned. Punter Shawn Powell was amazing, averaging 54.8 yards, including a 66-yarder and one kick that stopped at the UM 1. One of his punts essentially led directly to points when Miami's Travis Benjamin tried to pick up a Powell punt that landed over his head. He fumbled, FSU recovered and scored. FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins made three of four field-goal attempts and had two touchbacks. And Reid delivered the game's biggest play with his 83-yard return for a touchdown that provided a 17-7 lead before halftime.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Another rough game and reality check for FSU's offensive line. The Seminoles produced an abysmal 63 yards rushing for a 2.2-yard average. They missed several third-and-1 situations, including one near the UM goal line. The inability to run put more pressure on Manuel to be a one-man, dual-threat player. He was sacked three times and fortunate that a safety call by officials was later overturned, when they finally realized Manuel wasn't in the end zone when he released the ball. Since this was the best defensive line FSU has faced since Oklahoma, it became apparent the Seminoles have to develop these young linemen and continue to recruit better ones before this program can be an elite one.
QUOTE TO NOTE "We've got problems. We aren't perfect. But we are figuring out how to win and play in situations. I'll tell you one thing: We're playing with a lot of heart. There's a lot of togetherness in that group, and I'm proud of them." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher after his team's win over Miami.
With rival Miami, a win is a win for FSU
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