Florida State 10
It was billed as the game that would decide the football king of the newly expanded Atlantic Coast Conference, but Friday night's much-anticipated contest between No. 4 Florida State and No. 5 Miami played out like another bad sequel to "Dumb and Dumber."
Both teams spent most of this hot, muggy night in the Orange Bowl overcoming the mistakes of their much-maligned quarterbacks -- Florida State's Chris Rix and Miami's Brock Berlin. In the end, the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles for the sixth consecutive time, 16-10 in overtime, because Berlin made fewer mistakes -- and more big plays -- than Rix in front of a sold-out crowd of 78,622.
Rix, a senior who lost for the fifth time to the Hurricanes, dropped the snap on Florida State's fourth play in overtime, and Miami defensive end Thomas Carroll recovered the fumble. Two plays later, Miami tailback Frank Gore scored on an 18-yard touchdown run to extend the Seminoles' misery in the intrastate rivalry.
"We never flexed and never gave up and fought to the very end," Hurricanes Coach Larry Coker said. "Are all the games like that in the ACC? I might not like this league."
This loss will be just as excruciating for the Seminoles as any of the "Wide Right" games of the past. Florida State seemed headed toward victory in the final minute of regulation, even after the Hurricanes blocked Xavier Beitia's 34-yard field goal with about four minutes left. But with 41 seconds remaining, Berlin threw a short slant pass to junior Sinorice Moss, who caught the ball, dodged two defenders and raced for the left side of the end zone. His 30-yard touchdown and Jon Peattie's extra-point tied the game, 10-10.
"It's amazing -- our kicking game against Miami," Seminoles Coach Bobby Bowden said. "They hadn't blocked one before tonight. We just missed them. We would have won the game with that darn kick."
The Seminoles still might have won if Rix hadn't dropped the snap in overtime. It was his fourth turnover of the game -- he threw two interceptions and also fumbled while being sacked during the third quarter. He completed only 12 of 28 passes for 108 yards and was sacked three times.
"It was a little low and a little hard snap, but I should have caught it," Rix said. "[The snap] wasn't normally where it is, but I should have caught it. I was reading the coverage as well, and I just didn't get a handle on it."
On the first play of the fourth quarter, it seemed Rix had doomed Florida State for good. FSU's Craphonso Thorpe broke open in the middle of the field, but Rix overthrew him and his pass was intercepted by safety Greg Threat. The Hurricanes took over at their 13, and Berlin threw his best passes of the game on consecutive plays -- a 63-yard bomb to Moss and a 22-yard gain to tight end Greg Olsen that moved Miami to the FSU 2.
But Florida State's defense stuffed Gore for no gain on first and goal, and Berlin scrambled for only one yard on second down. On third and goal at the 1, tight end Buck Ortega was open on the left side of the end zone, but Berlin threw late and the pass was broken up. On fourth and goal, Coker decided to kick a field goal, instead of going for a touchdown, and Peattie's 18-yarder cut the Seminoles' lead to 10-3 with 12 minutes 39 seconds remaining.
It seemed Miami wouldn't get a chance to score again. After Hurricanes receiver Devin Hester blocked Beitia's field goal attempt with about four minutes left, Berlin threw down the left sideline for Moss again, but his pass was intercepted by cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The Seminoles took over at their 43, ran nearly 31/2 minutes off the clock and gave the Hurricanes the ball back with only 82 seconds remaining.
But Berlin threw a 24-yard pass to Roscoe Parrish, and then the Seminoles were penalized 15 yards for roughing the quarterback. Three plays later, Berlin threw the touchdown pass to Moss, the younger brother of New York Jets receiver Santana Moss, who had four catches for 112 yards, both career highs. Berlin completed 20 of 36 passes with one touchdown and one interception. Gore, who missed all but five games last season after tearing knee ligaments, ran 18 times for 94 yards and one touchdown.
The Seminoles ran 35 times for only 57 yards and were outgained, 364 yards to 165, in total offense.
It was only the second meeting of ACC teams ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll -- the then-No. 3-ranked Seminoles beat No. 5 North Carolina, 20-3, on Nov. 8, 1997. In fact, before Friday, there had been only four games played between ACC teams ranked in the top 10, and the Seminoles played in three and won all of them.
The Seminoles and Hurricanes have played several monumental games, before and after the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992. Friday's game was the sixth time the schools were both ranked in the top five, with Miami winning four of the previous five meetings. With the Hurricanes and Virginia Tech joining the conference this season, the intrastate rivalry in Florida was of even greater importance.
The game was originally scheduled to be played Monday night, but was delayed four days because of the threat of Hurricane Frances. Given the way Rix and the Seminoles played, they probably could have used a few more weeks to prepare.
"We'll still be in the hunt for the national championship," Cromartie said. "It's a long season. We're going to move forward and put this game behind us. We just have to try to keep our heads up and try to win the next 10 or 11 games."