Miami beat Florida State at home for the first time since 2004. The win keeps the Hurricanes’ divisional chances in the ACC alive and well, while a takedown of a hated rival that’s had UM’s number for years—it’ll pay dividends on the recruiting trail. Especially with the Noles obviously in the midst of a down cycle.

All of that combined should be the focus for Miami faithful as the 2018 season has hit its halfway point—though a current culture of negativity, not living in the moment and parade-raining has found a way to leave a fan base feeling lackluster, or at least moving past the win too quickly and pointlessly looking ahead.

Down 27-7 and lacking any real momentum before Sheldrick Redwine buried his helmet in the chest of Deondre Francois at the 6:42 mark in the third quarter—there wasn’t much for the CanesFam to celebrate.

As those who’ve followed this rivalry expected, Florida State came to play and brought it—despite the double-digit take-down some were calling for. Both sides traded touchdowns early, but a N’Kosi Perry fumble led to a Noles’ field goal and after a three-and-out by Miami, Florida State pushed the lead to 13 with a nine-play, 36-yard scoring drive.

The Canes couldn’t find an early groove; conservative offense early, coupled with a lack of execution—dropped balls serving as drive-killers—while the Perry fumble added more fuel to the Noles’ fire. The Turnover Backpack popped out, in less embarrassing fashion as expected, due to Florida State’s early dominance spirited play. The Noles openly mocked the Canes starting with the pre-gam warm-ups and the aggressiveness continued through a third quarter punt return that seemed to have blown the game wide open.

AFTER A SLOW START, MIAMI CAME ALIVE—RISING TO THE OCCASION

To the credit of Mark Richt, the UM coaching staff and a group of players who never lost hope—Miami held on, trusting that there was enough time and opportunity left to wreak some havoc. The disguised Redwine bllitz from Manny Diaz was perfectly-timed and executed—Gerald Willis hopping on the ball and HardRock erupting as the Turnover Chain was finally on display.

Perry immediately went to Dee Wiggins in the back of the end zone on second down, drawing a flag and moving UM to the FSU four-yard line—while Lawrence Cager lost a third down battle with Stanford Samuels, who batted away a much-needed touchdown. Trusting his team and the match-up, Richt went back to the same play—Cager hauling it in and returning the gloating favor back to the defeated Seminoles’ defensive back. The bold call was Miami’s second fourth down touchdown on the day—both to Cager.

The bang-bang momentum shift that cut Miami’s deficit to 13 points was about to go next level as Pat Bethel sacked Francis on first down. A play later, linebacker Michael Pinckney read the eyes of Francois. Looking force a quick pass to the tight end to gain some yardage back, Pinckney jumped the route, snatched the pass out of the sky and popped out of his barrel roll—arms above his head and racing towards the friendly confines of Miami’s end zone—fans jubilant as they could feel the orange and green tidal wave forming.

Big play aside—this one came from a big personality and Pinckney’s slow, swagtastic strut to the bench was as important to his team and crowd as the heads up play he’d just made.

No sooner had No. 56 done his mini-victory lap and put the chain around his neck—Perry dropped a 17-yard dime over the shoulder of Jeff Thomas in the back, right corner of the end zone, cutting the Noles’ lead to six.

Both sides traded punts; the Canes defense stalling after Perry took a sack that left Miami in a daunting third-and-long situation. With possession and in need of something to snatch back momentum, Florida State and head coach Willie Taggart went to “the play”; one of those gems practiced all week and kept in the back pocket bu coaches for a big time moment such as this.

Facing a 2nd-and-7 from the UM 45-yard line, Francois threw the ball to slot receiver D.J. Matthews—who fired it downfield to a wide open Keith Gavin—Gavin strutting into the end zone untouched, though a flag soon followed. Instead of a score, a five-yard penalty, leaving the Noles with a third-and-long—that they converted with a 19-yard strike to Matthews.

The trick play that wasn’t to be will remembered like many other moments in this storied rivalry; though sees as much of a sore spot as any kicks that sailed wide, keeping Florida State from emerging victorious—leaving an asterisk, or at minimum a “what if” moment in the minds of Seminoles faithful nationwide.

Forget the fact FSU still picked up a first down on third and long, but UM’s defense ultimately won the possession—forcing a 43-yard field goal attempt that Ricky Aguayo sailed wide left.

Same to be said for the amount of time left on the clock—just shy of a full quarter left, with three more possessions for the Noles, where the visiting squad couldn’t even muster up another first down—let along a scoring drive. Pay no mind to an obvious officiating whiff on that 74-yard punt return for a score where Matthews clearly stepped out of bounds—or the fact that Miami went into victory formation with under a minute remaining, kneeling on the FSU one-yard line, instead of punching in another score to push the lead to eight.

Just as UM fans seem to be quickly shelving this win, instead of savoring it—FSU remains hell-bent that their trick play wasn’t a forward pass, that the Noles got jobbed and had they scored a touchdown on that possession, they win the game.

Fandom issues aside, Miami capitalized on Florida State’s gaffe—taking over on their own 27-yard line. After two incompletions, Perry threaded a 32-yard strike to Thomas—having a small, closing window between two draping defenders. A play later, eyes locked right to fool the free safety—Perry looked left and dropped the ball into the waiting arms of Brevin Jordan, who barreled into the end zone for the go-ahead 41-yard score.

An emotional back-breaker, there was still 11:52 left in a one-point game—Florida State seemingly due to make a move as their offense had been held at bay since late in the second quarter. Instead, the Miami defense stayed in lockdown-mode—forcing three three-and-outs—while the Hurricanes’ offense got the ball back at the 4:12 mark and never surrendered it, courtesy of defensive pass interference, a fourth down pick-up by Trayone Gray.

With a fresh set of downs, Gray ran twice—setting up a brilliant, heads-up, six-yard run by Travis Homer on 3rd-and-3—the junior back, running tough-as-nails all day, while wisely going down at the one-yard line, instead of punching in the score—allowing the Canes to go into victory formation-mode. No reason to kick off with an eight-point lead, giving the Noles a chance to score, convert two and force overtime.

DIFFERENT REACTION TO A ONE-POINT VICTORY THAN IN THE PAST

In the end—Miami 28, Florida State 27—an identical score to the 2002 home match-up where a 17-14 halftime lead turned into a similar 27-14 deficit with 11:44 remaining—but was saved mid-fourth quarter after a monster run, setting up a a go-ahead touchdown, saved by yet another Seminoles’ kicking whiff.

In the wake of that mid-October thriller 16 seasons ago, where top-ranked Miami survived the twelfth-ranked Seminoles—the reaction was sheer jubilation, opposed to the type of criticism that dampered this comeback; mostly due to pointlessly heightened expectations.

Could be another case of winning curing all, as the 2002 topping of Florida State pushed the win-streak to 28 games—the defending national champion Hurricanes also whipping rival Florida a month earlier and riding high as a program; not losing a game in over two years. Then again, had social media existed back in 2002—maybe Miami would’ve gotten equally as roasted for falling behind by 13 points and giving up 296 rushing yards on the day.

Still, between the Noles pissing and moaning about the trick play being called back, as well as the amount of conversation or disappointment that the Canes didn’t roll heads in a game they were heavily-favored in, seem many have forgotten the fight both sides of this rivalry bring to the table annually.

ROLE REVERSAL; NOLES FALTERING LATE THIS TIME, NOT “THE U”

Four years ago the unranked Canes were a three-loss team and the Noles were the second-ranked defending national champs, with a Heisman-winner under center. FSU fell into a 16-0 hole against UM, brought it to 23-10 by the half and came alive late in the 30-26 victory—all smiles as they were known as a come-from-behind team in that era and delivered. The deficit didn’t matter; finding a way to beat Miami did.

The Canes were ranked No. 17 going into last weekend’s showdown—taking on a two-loss, unranked Seminoles’s squad; one boasting a more-experienced quarterback, as Francois took a beating and led the way in Florida State’s 20-19 win at HardRock in 2016. Perry—in his second career start, and on the biggest stage he’d ever played—responded with a four-touchdown performance, playing a huge role in the win, where the ask was simply to not give the game away, which was the case with quarterback Brad Kaaya in 2014, or kicker Michael Badgley in 2016, after whiffing on a game-tying extra point late.

Despite Miami having found its quarterback—and getting a second consecutive win over Florida State—the focus still seems to to remain on what the Hurricanes don’t have, previous setbacks or other mistakes made. A hyper-focus on the ranking and UM not being high enough in the polls remains a distraction—as does the inability for fans to get over a season-opening loss against LSU; amplified this weekend when Florida knocked off the fifth-ranked Tigers in Gainesville.

In contradictory fashion, there also seems to be a getting-way-ahead-of-things situation going on as well—a segment of the fan base already talking about running the table, beating Clemson for an ACC Championship and any potential of Miami getting left out of the College Football Playoffs; the Canes seven consecutive wins and 54 days away from needing to focus on any of that.

Weeks back, the focus was rebounding from the LSU loss and making the most of the scrimmage-like games that followed. From there, it shifted towards a road game at Toledo and making sure Miami delivered. After that, it was getting Perry playing time and solving the quarterback dilemma—which unfolded over three-and-a-half quarters against Florida International. After that, prepping for a short week with North Carolina heading south—and then turning it around and getting ready for all that comes with a Florida State battle royal.

SIX ONE-GAME REGULAR SEASON MATCH-UPS FOR THE CANES

“The U” is dealing with a series of one-week mini-seasons that each deserve their own level of focus an attention. Next up; a road trip to Charlottesville, where the Hurricanes have had their struggles since joining the ACC—which started with a hard-fought upset in 2004, as No. 17 Miami pulled away late with a fourth down touchdown pass to close out No. 10 Virginia, 31-21.

Since then, the Canes have lost four of their past six at Scott Stadium—most in absolutely wild fashion.

Down 17-10 most of the second half in 2008, the Canes rallied in the final minute to force overtime and quarterback Jacory Harris helped pull out the 24-17 win. Two years later, Miami fell into a 24-0 when Harris was injured in the first half—but third string, true freshman Stephen Morris entered and led a rally that fell short, the Canes losing, 24-19.

That next trek north ended with Virginia on the right side of a 41-40 shootout; Miami up 24-21 late second quarter, falling behind 28-24 at the half and going up again 31-28, shutting the Cavaliers out in the third quarter—before extending the lead to ten. UVA cut the lead to three, UM went back up by five after a safety, only to give up a touchdown with :06 remaining. Heartbreak City.

The road losing streak in the series reached three games in 2014 when Miami was clobbered in embarrassing fashion—30-13—showing up next-level flat a week after almost upsetting Florida State. The streak broke in 2016—Richt’s first season at UM—Miami leading 17-14 at the half, before a 17-0 run and a 20-point blowout victory.

The deep-dive on Virginia; a reminder that there are no gimmes down the stretch and that every one game-season has it’s own backstory and narrative. Miami gets a week off after the Virginia trek, before a Friday night showdown at Boston College—Chestnut Hill giving the Canes fits in the past, too.

Duke heads to Miami the following week, before the Canes take on Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech back-to-back weeks on the road—before closing with Pittsburgh at home. Get through all that unscathed—Clemson will be waiting in Charlotte for the ACC Championship game, ready to defend what’s been theirs for the past three seasons in a row.

SAVOR MIAMI’S LATEST CLIMB BACK TO THE TOP

Looking too far ahead; it can rob you from the moment and enjoyment of the ride itself. Prior to last season’s win in Tallahassee, Miami had lost seven in a row to Florida State—while dropping 10 of the past 12 match-ups. Unfathomable, considering the Canes and owned a six-game win-streak in the rivalry prior-to.

Having since flipped-the-script; UM now owning a two-game win-streak—while FSU is reeling and searching for an identity with a new head coach for the first time in a lifetime—slow down to savor it, instead of constantly looking ahead and setting the bar at Playoffs-or-bust. Especially with seven roadblocks ahead between now and then.

Easier said than done; especially in a social media era where it’s content overload and manufactured topics to keep the conversation flowing. No sooner was this piece in progress when the Miami New Times released a made-for-social, share-worthy type write-up—rattling off five cutesy reasons the Canes are gonna make the Playoffs!

Pump the brakes. A road trip to Virginia is on deck; Saturday evening in Charlottesville—another nationally-televised broadcast (ESPN 2) where “The U” and that iced-out chain will again be on display. Between now and then, savor the comeback over Florida State. Rewatch on your DVR are dig up the YouTube highlights.

Appreciate what is and this phase of the rebuild—opposed to wasting energy thinking about Charlotte in December and what could be.

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