Same off season practice field pledges from Florida State, same early season result – another loss to Miami. Amazingly enough though, this time the Noles hooked the media more than ever.
Preseason top five rankings in most polls, #1 in the ACC by some publications, Heisman Trophy and Chris Rix being mentioned in the same breath – and the ultimate prediction, Florida State making it to the National Championship game in January 2005, only after beating Miami in the season opener.
How's that crow tasting today, Kirk Herbstreit? Did you not know better? You were one of the first on Miami's bandwagon back in 2000 before the Canes started the six game win streak against the Noles. At what point did Miami lose you? What about Florida State sold you this season – especially with the season opener under the lights of the Orange Bowl, where the Canes rode a 16-night game win streak into the contest?
Amazing how many media pundits got caught up in the hype. Rix's fourth year as starter. Great size, great speed. Comparisons to a 2003 John Navarre of Michigan – a kid who struggled behind center as a junior, but finally put it together his senior season. Rix did his part and said all the right things this off season while the media fell for it hook, line and sinker.
The one thing they all refused to acknowledge? The space between #16's ears.
Miami got inside this kid's head in 2001 and never left. The result – 0-5 for his career against the Canes, with this most recent outing being his worst. 12 of 28 for 108 yards. No touchdowns. Two interceptions and two fumbles – the second, coming in overtime and all but sealing the win for the Canes. Amazing how Miami faithful saw this fabricated Rix hype machine coming a mile away, yet all the talking heads missed it.
Days later - even in the aftermath of the Miami comeback, there is still a blatant refusal to give the Canes their due.
Boring game. Brock Berlin made mistakes of his own. Florida State led until 59:30 in the contest – they had it sealed up. The Noles' defense was "suffocating." They merely choked on another kick. Only a play or two from winning this thing. Miami got lucky on Friday night and will still struggle this season, despite the win.
Are you kidding me? The only lucky play in this first ACC meeting between these two long time rivals was a Roscoe Parrish fumble bouncing directly into the mitts of an already in stride Antonio Cromartie, who took it 61-yards to the house. Anything other than a touchdown on the return most likely ends in an eventual turnover on downs being that neither offense was moving the ball at that point of the game. We'd have been looking at 3-0 for the majority of this evening. Talk about one or two plays that changed the momentum of the game.
What about all the pregame talk that Craphonso Thorpe and the Florida State receivers were in for a huge day? In the end 42 yards on 5 receptions for Thorpe and 108 yards in the air for the Noles – yet no offensive touchdowns.
Sinorice Moss led Miami with 4 receptions, an unexpected 112 yards and the game tying score. The Canes finished the day with 255 passing yards.
Whether Miami beats Florida State six straight times or sixty – there will always be excuses and a refusal to give the Canes the credit they deserve.
Let's set the record straight already – for a season opener between two heavyweights, this game went just as many expected. There wasn't supposed to be any flash on offense.
Look at the past two meetings. Defensive slugfests where the goal was stuff the run and force the quarterbacks into making mistakes, leaving a short field. Miami's recipe in both games last season was to establish a run, keep Berlin from turning the ball over and let the defense loose while allowing playmakers to make those big time plays.
We saw a tremendous coaching effort from Larry Coker this past weekend – yet the focus was again on Bobby Bowden's staff and their off season tinkering.
It was Coker who rallied the troops when down 10-0 at the half. It was his staff that made the correct calls. Randy Shannon's defense was in top form, as always. New offensive coordinator Dan Werner struggled at times, yet on a night when little went right offensively– he called the perfect game tying drive. Earlier, when faced with a 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line, it was the Miami staff that kicked the field goal to get points on the board, realizing it was a two possession game and there'd be one last shot with a hurry up offense.
With 3:58 left in the game, Florida State's chance to put the game on ice – was thwarted. Not ‘Wide Right' or ‘Wide Left.' This time it was shoved back down Xavier Beitia's throat when Devin Hester did his best Tremain Mack impersonation, broke loose and swatted down the 35-yard attempt. Look up "clutch" in the dictionary and you'll see this play. If that kick is made - there is no overtime. Don't trivialize it by saying Florida State "choked" – Miami rose to the occasion.
For all the talk about Rix, where is Berlin's credit? In the end, 20 of 36 on the day for 255 yards. One interception – which came on a beautifully thrown ball that resulted in a textbook play by Florida State's game MVP, Cromartie.
His final drive? Extremely reminiscent of Ken Dorsey's late game rally against the Noles in 2000.
With 1:22 left in a game where neither offense was lighting up the scoreboard – Berlin marched onto the field, fist pumping and fire in the belly. He spent the better part of the game confidently getting in receivers faces and telling them to stand strong. If they dropped a pass, he picked them up and offered encouragement.
Berlin proved he was a leader last Friday night. Rix hasn't been able to do that in four years as a starter.
"The Drive" had Berlin going 3 of 5 for 80 yards and the score. A 24-yard strike to Parrish got the drive underway. A 15-yard personal foul on the Noles aided the Canes and was followed up by an 11-yard strike to Quadtrine Hill. Two plays later, the game tying 30-yard strike to Moss – his second big time, clutch catch of game. His first huge grab, a drive earlier – the 63-yard bomb that helped set up Miami's first score of the night.
Though it was Rix who was mentioned as a Heisman hopeful all off season – it was Berlin who had the Heisman moment on the final scoring drive or regulation.
As the clock hit 0:00, the Miami sideline was electric. The Canes savored the opportunity at a shot to win this thing. One and done, while The Noles? Sucking wind. Hunched over. Hands on knees.
It's humid. We're cramping. Oh God, here comes Miami. Not again.
The Miami defense sniffed out every play on Florida State's lone overtime possession. Again, digging deeper. Pure heart. The Canes simply wanted it more and it showed on every down. The determination, the focus, the feeding off the raucous crowd of 78,622 that uncharacteristically never sat down or shut up all game, as if they knew the team was drawing its energy off them.
That Miami Mojo was in full force last Friday. Just look at all that happened in the game's final minutes. One false move and it was in the books. The Canes didn't get a break - they made their breaks. Still, everyone refuses to give Miami their due the morning after.
Actually, Miami wasn't even given their due that night.
Could commentator Brent Musburger have been anymore lackluster and milquetoast with his call of the game? We're talking about an individual here who's made a career of sensationalizing a 2-yard fullback dive and blowing viewer's eardrums with sheer overexcitement after an average play. Godforbid this was Oklahoma's Teddy Lehman making the big stick or Ricky Williams in his Texas days, galloping for 8 yards - Musburger's call would've been heard in Orlando.
When Hester swatted Beitia, Musburger hardly mustered a, "blocked… blocked…" after the play. Of course moments later when Cromartie intercepted Berlin, excitement filled the booth. After Moss scampered 30-yards for the game tying score, a bland "touchdown…. Miami" – as if disappointed with the result.
Again, all this coming from a guy who sounded like he was having a seizure in the booth when Jake Plummer scampered in from 20 yards out against Ohio State in the 1997 Rose Bowl.
When it came down to overtime and Frank Gore's 18-yard rumble – a simple "sprinting… cutting… Miami wins it" was the now "legendary" call. From there, 30 seconds of dead air. No talk of the comeback. No comments on Miami's will to win. No immediate props for Gore, the game winning run and the two stiff arms he threw which propelled him into the end zone. Nada.
Once a hater, always a hater – huh, Brent? Brad Nessler where were you when we needed you?
In the end, does Miami care about any of this? Nah.
It's a Canes thing. All about The U. All about the win.
Musburger's bias, Herbstreit's bogus predictions, the excuses of the Ivan Maisels, Dennis Dodds and other talking heads who always pick against Miami. For Hurricane players, coaches and fans – par for the course. It's been this way for 20 years now and it will continue a hundred more.
Miami aren't media darlings - such is life. Press on. Win games. Prove the critics wrong. That's life as a Miami Hurricane. We have Bruce Feldman and his "Cane Mutiny" in our corner. Who else do we need?
In a week where there was all too much anti-Miami chatter – only one quote mattered.
‘The Perfect Storm' himself, Art Kehoe spoke up post game. In a few sentences, he summed up the contest, the rivalry and the experience.
"We're better than them -- that's why we beat them. I don't care what anyone says. We're better than them, and we're tougher than them."
Let that one sink in and stew on it the next 365 days, Seminole Nation. You were physically and mentally whooped again. Hurricanes style. In your grasps, yet snatched away by Miami once more – in the most heartbreaking fashion.
Outconditioned. Outcoached. Outplayed. Out gutted.
Thanks for the introduction to ACC Football. No matter the conference, another year yields similar results - another Miami win coupled with more heartbreak for Florida State.
Born and raised in Miami, FL and a CanesTime.com columnist since 1996, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA and handles online sales and provides all content for http://www.allCanes.com. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him at chris@allCanes.com