Any Nole supporter feeling confident about their chances this weekend is a bold faced liar. Florida State is not the team they once were. Will they bounce back? Most likely. By this Saturday? No chance. A skin of their teeth win at Iowa State and a few decent victories over underachieving Virginia and Maryland kicked off this season. The following week a very non-FSU like performance against Duke where the Noles gave up 17 points and almost 400 yards in total offense to ACC doormat Duke. Five days later they are handed their first loss of the season by unranked Louisville – an overtime, rain soaked, nationally televised Thursday evening battle chock full of poor decision making and horrendous execution.
Most recently a 17-point win over rival Clemson in yet another Thursday night match up. A game damn near gift-wrapped from little Bowden to Papa Bowden. Four turnovers and glorious field position resulted in an early Christmas for ol' Bobby.
No presents this weekend though.
Instead Florida State gets to travel down south. The Orange Bowl – a place that has been less than kind to the Seminoles in recent memory. Their last two victories occurred in 1996 and 1998 when it was the Miami vs. Florida State & the NCAA. Probation stripped the Canes of scholarships and threw the rivalry completely out of whack. Before that, the Noles were winless in the Orange Bowl in every try since 1984. Just another victim of Miami's record setting, almost impossible to fathom 58-home game win streak.
To their credit, the Noles took advantage of a depleted Hurricane bunch during the probation years – maybe too much at times. Miami's low point came in 1997 when a trip to Tallahassee resulted in a 47-0 Seminoles victory. A game where the Noles re-inserted the first string defense in the 4th quarter to protect the shutout over the highly outmatched Canes. It would be a game that Miami fans and players would never forget. Walking out of that stadium, everyone in orange and green was already counting the days until payback. Three years later, it would come.
On October 7th, 2000 one dynasty started to crumble while an ancient, depleted one was a step closer to resurrection. No. 1 Florida State rode into the Orange Bowl, heads held high as defenders of the National Championship and owners of an 18-game win streak. They had taken five straight over the Canes and expected the tradition to continue.
Stinging from an early season loss to Washington, the Canes knew another loss to Florida State was unacceptable. No way were seniors and ultra-Canes such as Dan Morgan, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss going to leave Miami 0-4 against their hated rivals. It is no mystery that these two aforementioned ballers had career games that steamy Saturday in the OB.
In a game that saw the Canes take a 17-0 lead only to witness the Noles clawing back to steal the 24-20 advantage in the final two minutes – a historical drive occurred while a monkey was catapulted from Miami's collective back.
With 1:37 on the clock, "it" began. Sophomore Ken Dorsey threw the Canes on his scrawny shoulders and led his team downfield going 6-for-7 and 68 yards to glory. Moss and Wayne proved their worth huge grabs and a star was born when back up tight end Jeremy Shockey hauled in the game winner. Miami 27, Florida State 24. The Canes were back.
A year later it was No. 2 Miami storming into Tallahassee looking to smack around a less talented, one-loss No. 14 Florida State bunch. After getting smoked by ACC rival North Carolina 41-9 a few weeks prior, the Miami vs. Florida State meeting lost some of its luster to those outside Coral Gables and Tallahassee. Cane fans could've cared if the Noles were 0-4 – it was about payback and demolishing anything in the way of this unit and a first class trip to Pasadena.
In a game nowhere near as close as the 49-27 final, Miami dominated Florida State and snapped the 54-game home unbeaten streak and 37-game home win streak. Beyond that, the Noles' spirits were broken beyond repair. Losses to North Carolina State and Florida would eventually follow while the Canes would remain perfect en route to an undefeated season and a fifth National Championship. As obvious as it was that the Canes were "back" it was even more evident that something stunk in Tallahassee … more than normal. The Noles would lick their wounds and head into a four-loss off season for the first time since 1986.
"Let's Roll" became the battle cry of 2002. Early word out of Tallahassee told of an angry bunch of Noles stewing over the sub par season. Former players were harassing current players explaining that the events of 2001 were unacceptable. The media latched on, Florida State received a Top 5 ranking and the rest of the college world was told to steer clear as the sleeping giant was awaken.
In Miami it was business as usual. Sitting a top the college football universe, there will be those who cast stones. The Canes had an amazing run, but that was 2001. Too much talent had departed for the NFL. The 2002 schedule was an impossible task for a team of backups and inexperienced underclassmen. An entirely new secondary would replace three first rounders and a third rounder. The stellar tight end and elusive running back would be replaced by bottled talent who had yet to prove themselves. Repeating? Not possible.
Luckily you can only talk and hype it up for so long. Eventually you have to take the field and prove your worth for sixty minutes at a time. Pretenders will be exposed while contenders will separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Florida State has been exposed. Opponents smell the blood in the water. All the preseason chatter was nothing more than hype. Good marketing but nothing more than hot air. Internal bickering is present in the locker room and there is a lack of unity behind team leader and quarterback Chris Rix. A team divided will collapse. The loss to Louisville was the beginning, the Clemson victory provided false hope and this weekend in Miami the wheels will officially fall off. The Seminoles prepare to walk into the biggest challenge of the season while facing more questions than they did in the off season.
Their latest rally cry seems to be catching Miami off guard. Florida State is hoping and praying that the Canes are overlooking them. UM smells fear while the FSU thinks they smell overconfidence.
Don't buy that for a minute.
All the overconfidence is coming from Miami's fan base – and good on ya' Hurricane faithful. UM fans should be cocky and confident. What better time than now to be a Cane? What better weekend to battle Florida State than when the Canes are 5-0 on the season, defending the crown and riding high on a 27-game win streak? Dorsey looks as good as he has all season, the defense is lethal and running back Willis McGahee will get another chance to shine on the national stage and we all know what that means. No. 2 will be out to build upon his 204 yards and 24 carries against Florida's Gators a few weeks back.
Two wins in a row over Florida State isn't enough. A hundred wins in a row wouldn't be sufficient. Complacency can't even be an option. These current Canes know the streak ran for five consecutive games in the mid to late nineties. October 8th, 1994 to October 7th, 2000 – almost six years to the day were lived in succession where Florida State held bragging rights. Why would anyone suiting up this Saturday take the contest lightly? Everything is on the line. The season is flat out ruined with a loss to this archrival. Who is going to overlook that?
The Canes know what is on the line. Larry Coker and his staff will guard against the overconfidence. Pop a copy of October 4th, 1997 in the VCR to remind these kids how the big dog in the rivalry puts the little one out of its misery. While this isn't the same Florida State team – there is still that same hatred on both sides of the ball. Don't be fooled by the one loss and the fact that this isn't a typical Florida State team. They will be ready to play and could turn around their season with a win.
That said, bring it on Noles. Come with your best game. Take off those helmets pregame and attempt to stomp on the "U." Have some of that ol' Florida State swagger. We want you cocky, confident and ready to play.
Then we will punch you square in the teeth.
As mentioned before, it can only be talked about and hyped up for so long. You will have to bring sixty minutes to win this game. You will need to go the distance and play the game of your lives. At the same time you'll have to do so hoping that Miami is completely out of sync.
Don't hold your breath.
The roles are reversed. Miami is king of the hill and represents everything you want and need to reclaim your perch. Problem is we ain't giving it up just yet. Miami is bigger, better, stronger and faster. The Canes have more unity and heart. This is the true definition of a team. Personal goals aside – the Canes are in the mix for number six. For the next few days you stand in the way. Come Saturday, it'll be business as usual for Miami. Call the play, execute and dominate like a champion.
You've run your mouths, Noles. You ready to back it up? This game is your chance to turn around your season and Miami's chance to roll on with theirs. Who wants it more? Who is man enough to go out and take it?
If you're expecting to find the Canes overconfident and looking past this one, you're the ones doing the underestimating. It'll always be about payback when you come to town. Time for the Canes to go on that five year run. Come Saturday it'll be three and counting.
Looking forward to pounding you once again on our turf and sending the rest of your season into complete disarray.
Miami 47 Florida State 20
Born and raised in Miami, FL and a Grassy.com guest columnist since 1995, Chris Bello now resides in San Diego, CA. Feel free to send your comments or to contact him for potential writing assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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