FSU Revisited

It's virtually impossible to reflect on a past Hurricanes' season without referencing the annual Florida State match up.

The standard litmus test in deciding whether or not it was a successful season in Coral Gables is usually determined the second week of October.

Expect the same in 2002.

The balance of power has shifted back to the Canes after exciting wins the past two seasons. Still, two in a row is nowhere near good enough after dropping five in a row to the Noles. Probation reared its ugly head and Miami didn't have the manpower to go 60 minutes against Florida State.

But that was then and this is now.

The low point of the series came in October 1997 when the Canes were dealt a 47-0 blow at the hands of the Noles. Was this the end of the rivalry? Could Miami ever rebound? What was once as intense a rivalry as the college football world had ever seen had been reduced to men against the boys. Florida State was the dominant force and was truly enjoying the role of slapping little brother around.

Unfortunately for those in Tallahassee, little brother eventually grows up and if mistreated, expect that he will retaliate.

Revenge for Miami came in the sweetest form in 2000 when #1 Florida State strolled into town. Fresh off a National Championship, a 17-game win streak and five straight victories against the Canes - Florida State's chests were puffed out and heads held high.

Miami had a different attitude. Stinging from the Washington loss a few weeks back, the Canes were disappointed in themselves. A sixth loss in as many years to Florida State would not be tolerated. Stumbling twice this early in a season and sporting a 3-2 record when goals were set so much higher was unthinkable. A win against the Noles was the only option. The thought of losing could cross no Canes' mind.

The Orange Bowl was absolutely rocking on October 7th, 2000. The electricity was in the air, on the field and in every soul in that stadium. Miami players, coaches and fans were completely backed up and needed a Seminole Colonic. The enemy was across the field and remained the only obstacle that kept the Canes from truly being "back."

Call it nerves or just call it a good defensive play - either way, Miami's Daryl Jones coughed up the opening kickoff. In the blink of an eye the #1 Noles were on offense and in scoring distance before the average Cane fan could ask the person sitting next to them, "what the hell just happened?"

Jones' error was quickly rectified by a Miami defense that pinned its ears back and came ready to play. A Florida State fourth down opportunity was thwarted and the Canes showed that they weren't going to be pushed around this afternoon.

The Hurricane defense would not bend in the first half while the offense mixed up the play calling and found a way to post a 17-0 lead heading into the locker room - marking the first time the Noles had been shut out in the first half in 12 years.

The aggressor in 1988? You guessed it - Miami. That evening ended 31-0 in favor of the Canes.

The second half of the 2000 meeting provided more fireworks than the late 80's match up. Florida State rallied and showed the heart that is expected of the #1 team in the nation. The 17-0 Miami lead eventually became 24-20 in favor of Florida State with less than two minutes remaining in the contest.

The future of Hurricane football rested on the scrawny shoulders of one man-child.

Ken Dorsey.

The sophomore quarterback had shown glimmers of greatness but fresh in everyone's mind was the sub par performance at Washington a month prior. With 1:37 remaining and 68-yards from the line of scrimmage to the end zone, the odds were not in Miami's favor.

Seems someone forgot to tell that to Dorsey.

Completing 6 of the next 7 passes, Dorsey's touchdown strike came in the form of a 13-yard dart to tight end Jeremy Shockey. "The Drive" took a mere 51 seconds but will live on in infamy. Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke tried to rally his troops and at minimum get his Noles within field goal distance. They would get no closer than a 49-yarder for the non-reliable Matt Munyon. His foot would connect and in almost storybook fashion the ball ended up wide right and the Canes ended up on the victorious side of a 27-24 score for the first time in half a decade.

The monumental win proved that the Canes were once again a dominant force and there has been no looking back ever since. The final hurdle to overcome against their archrival would have to wait another year.

Doak Campbell Stadium was a nightmare for Seminole opponents the past decade. Miami was no exception. The last team to beat Florida State on their home turf - November 16th, 1991 - the Canes wanted to be the ones to end the current streak after dropping their last four on Seminole turf.

That chance came in 2001 when Miami put recent tradition aside and rolled into Tallahassee with a "take no prisoners" attitude. The Canes not only expected to win - they planned on dominating ever facet of the contest.

In a game nowhere near as close as the final score, Miami leapt out to a 21-0 lead halfway through the second quarter. Though dejected, the Noles made it a respectable 21-13 at the half. They were back in a game they never should've been in and the Hurricane team leaders were well aware of this. It would be on the Miami seniors to inspire the rest of the squad to get hungry and snatch back what was rightfully theirs.

Look no further than an inspired and vocal Ed Reed to say just the right thing at the right time. Playing with a separated shoulder and on the verge of tears of anger, Reed let his mates know that half-assign it was not acceptable. Dominate. Destroy anything and everything in their way that was keeping them from the ultimate goal.

Reed's speech propelled the Canes to a 28-point third quarter. By game's end Miami put it in cruise control and enjoyed every final moment of the 49-27 beat down. The streak had ended; the Noles experienced their second loss to the Canes in two years and would have to stomach the fact that their run at the top had come to an end. Miami had opened up shop and was back in business. It was time to truly boast "anytime, anywhere, anyplace." The Canes had proven that they could win wherever there was a challenge.

The time this year is October 12th and the place is the beloved Orange Bowl. Many of the usual suspects return on both sides of the ball. There are many new faces as well as a few returnees that missed last year's battle. The Canes suit up an entirely new secondary and a few new big uglies on the o-line. The Noles have holes to fill as well but will experience the return of some injured playmakers that were sidelines and forced to watch history in the making last October.

While both squads have a handful of games before the annual match up, everyone has October 12th circled on their calendars. As always it is THE make or break game for both teams. Season determining. Bragging rights are on the table as well as a possible ticket to Tempe, AZ for this year's championship game.

The Noles are circling the wagons and are quick to call last season's 8-4 record a fluke. A blip on the radar. A one-time thing. They are angry, hungry and ready to rectify all last year's wrongs.

Last week's 38-31 victory over Iowa State has the college football nation wondering if Florida State is just blowing hot air. The Cyclones should've been on the receiving end of a furious beating if one had listened to all the talk coming out of Tallahassee this summer. Instead, the Noles were counting their lucky stars that they were lucky enough to start the season with a 1-0 record.

Mouths can run all day long, but the proof comes in the form of actions the second week of October. The Canes could get publicly fired up over ignorant comments made by Florida State quarterback Chris Rix - or they could just tuck those little phrases away and hold onto them. Dwell on those ridiculous words. Laugh quietly at Rix's jaded perception. Let him think that his words went unheard - and then unleash hell. Turn the defense loose and plant this young, arrogant punk into the turf like Orange Bowl fertilizer. Make him pay. Make ALL the Noles pay. The gave it to Miami five years in a row - by my calculations that means Miami must return the favor a few more times before the score is settled.

October 13th, 2002 - mark your calendar. This will be college football at its finest.

Born and raised in Miami, Chris Bello now lives in San Diego, CA and works as a freelance writer. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at cbello@san.rr.com


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