By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
MIAMI, Sept. 4 -- The University of Miami faithful who stood through a driving rainstorm not only got soaked Monday night, they got blindsided. Miami's defense pounded Florida State's offense for nearly three quarters at the Orange Bowl, but the Seminoles rallied in the fourth quarter to take home a victory.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Drew Weatherford led two scoring drives, and Michael Ray Garvin grabbed a late interception to ensure No. 11 Florida State's nerve-racking, if not exactly thrilling, 13-10 victory over No. 12 Miami. The win allows the Seminoles to hope for a return to national prominence after a disappointing 8-5 season.
Place kicker Gary Cismesia connected on a 33-yard field goal with 8 minutes 1 second remaining to provide the winning margin.
"Our defense played well and kept us in it," Weatherford said. "Our special teams played well all night, and the offense came around when we needed to. I think you saw some perseverance that we learned from [last year]. This team has a lot of character."
Meantime, Miami's worst fears were realized. Missing four key players to suspensions, the Hurricanes' offense played solidly for just one quarter -- the second -- and mounted no threat when the situation became dire. That point came when Weatherford found his stroke despite getting no support from Florida State's running game, which mustered one yard.
Miami's running game, it is worth noting, put up two. The Hurricanes, coming off consecutive 9-3 seasons, earned just one first down and 17 total yards in the second half.
"Florida State really didn't do anything we didn't expect on defense," Miami tight end Greg Olsen said. "We just killed ourselves. We were really moving the ball well, but then things kind of self-destructed."
The victor in this game historically has gotten the edge in contending for a national title. But despite the marquee time slot on college football's opening weekend, both programs have lost some of their luster.
For the first time since 1982, neither program began the night in the top 10. Miami Coach Larry Coker, who fired four longtime assistants in the offseason, tried to summon consolation from the Hurricanes' similar circumstances last year, when they rose to No. 3 in the polls despite a three-point loss to Florida State in last year's opener. (They ended the season with two straight losses.)
"I want to just make sure the fans don't give up on this football team," Coker said. "It's a long season."
Neither offense, not surprisingly, looked to be in midseason form. They combined for a minuscule .06-yard rushing average. Weatherford completed 16 of 32 passes for 175 yards; Miami's Kyle Wright hit was 18 of 27 for 132 yards.
Weatherford, though, took command when it mattered.
He had a hand in all but three yards Florida State gained on its go-ahead scoring drive in the fourth quarter -- though he also botched a shotgun snap at the Miami 9-yard line that might have cost his team a touchdown. Weatherford scrambled to cover his fumble for a 10-yard loss that pushed Florida State back to the 19. Three plays later, Cismesia made his second field goal of the night to put the Seminoles ahead.
"The last four or five times we've played, it comes down to field goals," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said. "So I was glad to see that we made ours."
As it turned out, that was more than enough. Miami failed to advance the ball on its next three drives, and the game ended when Garvin intercepted Wright's pass deep in Miami territory with 36 seconds remaining.
With his team down 10-3 late in the third quarter, Weatherford silenced the crowd and put the Seminoles in position for Joe Surratt's one-yard touchdown plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter with 27- and 35-yard completions.
"We lost our poise a little bit," Coker said.
Wright had dissected the Seminoles' defense in the second quarter, helping his team overcome a sluggish start. Wright, who connected on just four passes for 15 yards in the opening quarter, was 13 of 17 for 89 yards in the second.
A 27-yard-completion to a lunging Darnell Jenkins ignited a 51-yard scoring drive that was capped by a four-yard burst by Charlie Jones at the 13:02 mark, giving Miami a 7-3 lead. The Hurricanes pushed their lead to 10-3 when Jon Peattie added a 20-yard field goal shortly before halftime.
Florida State had taken advantage of a poor punt -- just 24 yards to the Seminoles 45 -- from Brian Monroe to score the game's first points. Cismesia converted on a 37-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead at the 8:56 mark.
"Anytime you lose, it's frustrating," Miami lineman Anthony Wollschlager said. "But this one seems to hurt worse."