Rally, rinse, repeat: FSU continues to show one half is good enough
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla -- Florida State proved once again that one good half of football would suffice as the Seminoles rallied from 16 points down to defeat the Miami Hurricanes 30-26 on Saturday.
Coming back from down 15-plus points to steal a victory for the third time this season, the Seminoles (10-0, 7-0 ACC, No. 3 CFB) continue to build their perfect season on the back of imperfect performances as they have now pushed their school-record winning streak to 26 games.
Aware of his team's flaws and habitual first-half hardships, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher remains happy with each game's end result, even if getting there isn't always pretty.
"Measure this team for 60 minutes," Fisher said. "When you measure this team for 60 minutes, it measures up pretty doggone good to anybody anywhere. Everybody has flaws, but this team, they love each other and it gets down to that."
"They play for each other. They don't panic. This is a heck of a Miami football team. Give them credit ... but our kids just execute when they have to."
With quarterback Jameis Winston and the Seminoles offense showing no pulse en route to three consecutive three-and-out drives to begin the game, the Hurricanes offense built a sizeable lead early on in front of a sellout crowd of 76,530 Miami-friendly fans at Sun Life Stadium.
Florida State's pass defense, which ranked 10th in the nation having allowed just 180.6 yards per game to begin the night, was carved up by Hurricanes freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya to the tune of 240 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 10-of-17 passing attempts in the first half.
Trailing 23-10 at halftime with their dream season slowly approaching a nightmarish end, the Seminoles now-predictable comeback began to build steam on just their second drive of the third quarter.
Facing a third down at the Miami 11, Winston's throw was deflected by the Hurricanes' Tyriq McCord, who sent the ball into the hands of Seminoles running back Karlos Williams for an easy touchdown to turn the contest into a one-possession game, with Miami's lead down to 23-17.
"The ball bounced our way and sometimes you get a little luck," Fisher said.
That play would be all the luck the Seminoles would need on offense as Florida State's defense buckled down in the second half to hold Kaaya to just three completions for 40 yards and one interception in the final two quarters.
"We made adjustments," Fisher said of his defense's second-half surge. "We swapped some suggestions, gummed up some ideas and they went back and they made the adjustments and moved on."
With their passing game held in check for the majority of the night, Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook became the team's most effective weapon, finding the endzone twice on Saturday, including the go-ahead touchdown with 3:05 remaining to put Florida State up 30-26.
"We felt that we could run the ball, but we were behind the whole time," Fisher said. "That was two big runs right there at the end."
After Cook's score, Kaaya would take the Hurricanes offense to the Florida State 43-yard line before a Jalen Ramsey interception on a fourth-down pass with 39 seconds left would seal Miami's fate.
Winston, who completed 25 of 42 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown, said the team's necessity for second-half heroics isn't something his teammates should relish, but nevertheless admires their continued resolve.
"It's been like that for a couple games this year," said Winston. "We did what we had to do. We knew that the fans were going to start getting into the game. Miami played tremendous. Their intensity was higher than ours in the first half. We did what we've been doing all year. We persevered and came back."
Down 16-0 and 23-7 before outscoring the Hurricanes 23-3 in the final 2 1/2 quarters, the Seminoles could care less how those outside their locker room perceive their enigmatic showings week in and week out.
Criticized for falling behind early rather than being lauded for their impressive comebacks, Seminoles wide receiver Rashad Greene spoke frankly when the postgame focus fell on the team's first-half debacle rather than the end result.
"It's about winning and losing -- we're winning," Greene said.
"Why do you have to criticize? We're making it possible to win games and chase our goals."
Having already clinched the ACC's Atlantic Division title earlier in the day when Clemson lost, and on the heels of yet another inspiring come-from-behind victory, the Seminoles are now one step closer to that goal, no matter how imperfect they look getting there.