For Miami, coming up short against FSU an extra bitter pill
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami players on the sideline stood on the benches and waved their arms in the air, encouraging the sellout crowd of 76,530 Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium to make noise.
With reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and defending national champion Florida State in town, the nation watched to see whether the unranked Hurricanes could snap the Seminoles' 25-game win streak.
Could Miami, hoping to once again become relevant again in college football, perform on the primetime stage?
Through two quarters, the answer was a resounding yes. By the start of the fourth, the anxiety had become palpable. The Hurricanes, once up by as many as 16 points, led until 3:05 remained in the game.
Local boy Dalvin Cook, recruited by Miami, scored the go-ahead 26-yard touchdown, and the Hurricanes' final drive fizzled in FSU territory in a 30-26 loss.
Is there such thing as a moral victory after such a heartbreaking defeat?
"Honestly, no," said senior tight end Clive Walford, who caught four passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. "Came up short. It'd be different if we won."
Added senior linebacker Denzel Perryman: "Nobody like to lose."
This wasn't just another game for Miami, who wanted to snap a four-game skid in the rivalry. In the past two defeats, the program lost by a combined score of 74-34. It needed a statement game, a sign that progress has been made under head coach Al Golden.
During warmups, recruits watched from the sideline. So did Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, reportedly set to sign the richest contract in North American sports history.
The Seminoles went three-and-out on the first drive and accumulated just 14 yards on nine plays in the first quarter as the Hurricanes built a 13-0 lead. By halftime, they held a 23-10 advantage. Everything seemed to be going their way -- from a muffed kickoff return to open receivers downfield.
But Miami also left plays on the field that would come back to haunt the team, magnified against an opponent with a penchant for comebacks.
-- Freshman kicker Michael Badgley missed an extra point and a 29-yard field goal. The difference in the game was four points.
-- Twice freshman Brad Kaaya overthrew sophomore wideout Stacy Coley on sure touchdowns. On both occasions, the speedy target had several yards on the defender.
-- Freshman Braxton Berrios dropped a diving touchdown catch.
-- Both Walford and sophomore tight end Stan Dobard fumbled after recording first downs on catches of 20-plus yards.
-- Sophomore cornerback Jamal Carter and junior Raphael Kirby couldn't hold onto interceptions. Florida State took advantage, scoring points on those drives.
"We didn't capitalize when we should've," said junior running back Duke Johnson, who collected his sixth straight 100-yard rushing game. "We had a lot of plays we left out there. A lot of plays we got in good position and made mistakes. It was just a lot of things we were doing that was hurting ourselves more than them hurting us."
Having already set the program's freshman record for single-season passing yardage, Kaaya hoped to orchestrate a game-winning drive for the ages -- or, as he put it -- "We have to score in this situation at all costs. No matter what."
It started out promising when Kaaya connected with senior wideout Phillip Dorsett on third-and-2 to keep the drive alive. But Johnson battled cramps and tried to get back on the field.
An incompletion, a 1-yard run and another incompletion set up fourth-and-9 from the FSU 43. Kaaya, who hadn't thrown a pick in three games, was intercepted by Jalen Ramsey to clinch the Seminoles' victory.
"I'm real proud of the effort," Golden said. "I think there's no question they prepared and entered the game believing and knowing that they were going to win. Obviously we were just a couple of plays short at the end of the day. They made a couple more plays than we did. That was the difference in the game."