FSU PK Dustin Hopkins could be difference vs Miami

While Florida State has never beaten Miami with a last-minute,

game-winning field goal, the Seminoles have lost five games to the

Hurricanes since 1991 because of missed kicks.

If Saturday’s game comes down to a field goal at the finish,

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher likes his chances with Dustin

Hopkins, who is on pace to challenge school and Atlantic Coast

Conference records for scoring and field goals.

”We love our kicker,” Fisher said Wednesday. ”He’s handled

those situations before.”

The record-setting junior kicker has hit 15 of 17 field goals

this season and 124 consecutive extra-points. Hopkins has converted

56 of 71 field goals in his career, including four of 52 yards or

longer. He has been doing it since his first collegiate game two

years ago when he kicked field goals of 45 and 52 yards in a 38-34

loss to Miami. In his first two games in the series, Hopkins is

10-for-11 on extra-points and has field goals covering 52, 45 and

38 yards.

By comparison, Miami (5-4, 3-3) comes into the game with a

relatively inexperienced field goal kicker. Junior Jake Weiclaw

took over those duties this season and has hit on 8 of 10 and all

36 of his extra-point attempts.

”He’s been kicking big field goals for us and coming up big for

us all year,” Miami linebacker Sean Spence said.

Both kickers, however, are hoping they aren’t factors in the

game.

”I’m not upset if we win by four touchdowns or whatever the

score is,” Hopkins said.

But they also agree that a kicker has to embrace a game-deciding

attempt.

Hopkins, who paints his shoes gold before each game, has already

experienced the agony of a missed kick and the exhilaration of a

winning one.

The lanky Texas nailed a 55-yard field goal as time expired in

Florida State’s 16-13 win over Clemson last year just one week

after his 40-yard attempt was, naturally, wide right with 7 seconds

remaining as North Carolina escaped with a 37-35 win in

Tallahassee.

”Just knowing you’ve been there I’m sure will help if the

opportunity arises again,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins, who also handles kickoff duties for the Seminoles (6-3,

4-2), is known for accuracy and range, which is accented by his

numerous kickoffs into or through the end zone.

”Those special guys … that’s what separates them,” Fisher

said. ”That’s one of the things we’re blessed with.”

Quarterback EJ Manuel is hoping to put up enough points so it

doesn’t come down to a kick at the end, but he’s not worried if it

does.

”If we have to win by a field goal I’d put my money on

Dustin,” Manuel said. ”I’d go with my guy every time.”

Kickers Graham Gano and Sebastian Janikowski were on Florida

State teams that swept Miami, and Gary Cismesia kicked field goals

in the 2005 and 2006 games that were the difference in Florida

State victories over the `Canes. His 33-yard field goal with 8:06

left capped Florida State’s fourth quarter comeback in a 13-10 win

in the 2006 season opener.

Florida State and Miami renew their rivalry on the 20th

anniversary of the Hurricanes’ 17-16 win after FSU’s Gerry Thomas’

34-yard attempt was wide right. Similar misses in 1992, 2000, 2002

and the 2004 Orange Bowl game have left the Seminoles feeling like

there’s a kicking curse on them against Miami.

Many Hopkins’ predecessors left this rivalry in despair, perhaps

none more than Beitia. Then a sophomore, Beitia was crushed when

his 43-yard kick missed to the left in 2002 and let the Hurricanes

escape with a 28-27 win. He never again was as accurate with his

field goals after that miss.

The names roll off the tongues of Florida State fans. Thomas,

Dan Mowrey, Matt Munyon, Xavier Beitia. Even Derek Schmidt, one of

the best kickers in school history and the one-time NCAA scoring

leader missed two field goals and an extra point in a 26-25 loss to

the Hurricanes in the 1987 classic.

Munyon’s 49-yard attempt as time expired sailed wide right at

the end of the 2000 game when Miami handed the Seminoles their only

regular season loss, 27-24.

A walk-on from Niceville who wasn’t even in Florida State’s

media guide in 1991, Thomas won the starting job midway through

that season from Mowrey, then a redshirt freshman.

Florida State wouldn’t have even been in the `91 game without

Thomas, who was perfect on three earlier field goals that had given

Florida State a 16-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Fullback Paul

Moore scored Florida State’s only touchdown that day on a 1-yard

run.

Casey Weldon, who was the Seminoles quarterback that day, has

said from day one that Thomas should not be blamed for the loss

when the offense couldn’t manage more than a single touchdown.

Thomas finished the 1991 successfully against Florida and Texas

A&M in the Cotton Bowl, but then gave up the sport.