TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Devonta Freeman went to Miami Central High School, just 15 miles north of the campus of the University of Miami.
He grew up a Miami Hurricanes fan.
The Hurricanes coaching staff, the Randy Shannon regime, wasn’t interested in Freeman.
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The running back’s first scholarship offer came from Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. He took it, even when Miami jumped in late and tried to get Freeman to stay home.
On Saturday, between his second and third touchdowns, Freeman caught a short pass and ran down the sideline, stiff-arming a Miami defender as he went for extra yards. And then he flashed a “U” to the Miami sideline.
Personal? You bet.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Freeman ran for two touchdowns and had a 48-yard catch-and-run, racking up 176 offensive yards, as Florida State defeated Miami 41-14 in a top-10 ACC showdown before a record crowd of 84,409 on Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium.
“I dreamed of always doing good in the big games,” Freeman said. “I didn’t know who it was going to be against. It so happened it was going to be against Miami.”
No. 3 Florida State (8-0, 6-0 ACC) kept the pressure on No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon in the national championship hunt. The Seminoles have now beaten a pair of top-10 teams in 15 days, including a 51-14 rout of then-No. 3 Clemson on Oct. 19 — knocking the Hurricanes and Tigers off by a combined 64 points.
And perhaps they have sent a message that they deserve to have a spot in the national championship game, although there is still plenty of football left over the next month. The Seminoles did it by dominating their intrastate rival on both sides of the ball, winning the fourth straight game in the series.
“I feel like we can play with anybody in the country,” Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “We’re just trying to get to Pasadena by any means necessary.”
The Seminoles’ defense was stifling, holding Miami to 275 yards and shutting out the Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1) in the second half. Florida State forced Miami quarterback Stephen Morris to toss two interceptions in the second half, and the Hurricanes managed just 95 offensive yards after halftime.
On a night when Jameis Winston was accurate but also tossed a pair of first-half interceptions, Freeman provided the punch in Florida State’s offense. Freeman had 78 yards on 23 carries and 98 yards on six receptions, including a few screen passes he turned in to long gains.
Winston played possibly his worst half of football during the first 30 minutes Saturday, and he still led Florida State on three first-half scoring drives, helping the Seminoles to a 21-14 halftime lead.
Winston completed 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards and the touchdown to Freeman. He was 9 of 15 in the first half and 12 of 14 in the second half. It was the fifth time in eight games that the redshirt freshman surpassed the 300-yard mark.
Morris showed pinpoint accuracy early in delivering a pair of touchdown strikes to Allen Hurns in the first half. But then Morris had just 75 passing yards in the second half and was intercepted twice after trying to force long throws downfield.
Florida State has now dismantled its biggest two ACC rivals. After the game, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was asked if he would consider ranking the Seminoles No. 1 on his coaches’ poll ballot.
He artfully dodged the question, sort of like Freeman evading Miami defenders.
“This is a very good football team,” Fisher said. “I love our football team.”
The only question now: How much do the voters love Florida State?