By Scott Carswell Jr.
This Saturday at 3:30 the Seminoles will take on the rival Hurricanes in Miami Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium. FSU has won 7 straight games in the stadium including 2 orange bowls. The last time Miami beat Florida State in Miami was in 2004 at the Orange Bowl when Frank Gore scored on a walk-off touchdown in overtime. Perhaps this is the reason some Seminole fans call it Doak South or Seminole Hard Rock Stadium. A couple memorable moments during the streak for FSU are when Jameis Winston led a 16 point comeback capped off by Jalen Ramsey’s interception in 2014 and Demarcus Walker’s blocked PAT in 2016.
Last season’s matchup started off slowly but it had a furious finish as Florida State took the lead with 1:24 to go. However, Miami scored the winning touchdown with just 6 seconds on the clock and ended FSU’s 7 game winning streak in the rivalry.
Miami had an opening loss to LSU but has since reeled off 4 straight wins against Savannah State, Toledo, FIU and North Carolina.
Observations from the Louisville game
Corey Durden is a liability in the run game but is a good pass rusher from the defensive tackle spot.
The 3rd down struggles continue for both sides of the ball. It is baffling how many times the defense gives up first downs on third down and long.
The communication between the linebackers and safeties on pass plays has to get better soon. Many times there would be big holes in the middle of the field that could have ended up in big plays for Louisville. Thankfully for Florida State, Juwan Pass was unable to connect with his receivers on most of these miscommunications.
The offensive line was considerably better this past weekend. There wasn’t much room for the backs to get many yards but the big guys were able to protect their quarterback very well. It was the first time since 2014 that the FSU offensive line did not give up a sack in a game.
In the first half Brian Burns was lined up against Louisville’s left tackle Becton and was unable to get consistent pressure. In the second half coach Barnett lined him up on the right tackle and Burns was able to force Pass to throw it sooner than he wanted to on multiple occasions.
Florida State offense versus Miami defense
Last year FSU had success running the football against the Miami defense. The Seminoles combined to rush for 203 yards with Cam Akers going for 121 yards on the ground. I’m not sure that that will happen this year due to the offense still adjusting to Taggart’s scheme. As discussed in the previous previews other reasons as to why the running game has struggled are that the backs are trying to go for the big play, poor blocking, penalties and Francois’ inability to grasp the read option.
I expect the garnet and gold to try to challenge the D the same way UM will try to attack FSU. That is by using the quickness of slot guys Noonie Murray and DJ Matthews to try to get in behind the blitzers and using the athleticism of big-play receiver Tamorrion Terry. The Miami secondary is very experienced so it will be a little more challenging for the Seminoles.
Strong safety Jaquan Johnson should be back in the lineup for the orange and green. Florida State’s offensive line has been good at protecting the quarterback when the opposing defenses use the normal four-man blitz recently but they still struggle deciding who to block against pre-snap shifts, stunts and five or more rushers. Miami will try all three of these ways to produce pressure. This is one of the reasons why they lead the nation in tackles for loss per game at 12. Defensive lineman Gerald Willis and Jonathan Garvin have combined for 20 tackles for loss this is season. FSU hasn’t been very good at preventing tackles for loss by ranking in the 100s in this category. Experienced O-lineman Derrick Kelly and Landon Dickerson remain questionable for this matchup. Other defenders to look out for in the Miami scheme are talented linebackers Shaq Quarterman and Michael Pinckney.
Florida State defense versus Miami offense
QB N’Kosi Perry is coming off his 1st career start against UNC. The run game and defense dominated the Tar Heels so he only threw the ball 12 times going 8/12 and for 125 yards in the 47-10 win. Malik Rosier started the first 4 games but struggled just enough to give Perry a chance at the starting job. Perry showed off his talents in relief to earn the start versus UNC. Perry will remain the starter against this weekend.
Miami has three senior offensive linemen on the left side of the line and this is where UM has had the most success running the football. The Hurricanes like to establish the run with Travis Homer (364 yards) and Deejay Dallas (338 yards) first and then take some shots off play action. To keep that from happening the Seminoles defensive tackles will to keep up their solid play from the first month of the season. Keeping Demarcus Christmas, Marvin Wilson and Fred Jones in the lineup while the ‘Noles D is on the field will be a big help. If Miami can get the run game going it will be a long day for the Seminoles. The safeties and sometimes the linebackers will need to stay back to help defend Miami slot receiver Jeff Thomas. The Seminoles have bad trouble defending the slot receiver position through the years. Thomas is the fastest receiver FSU has gone up against so if he can get room in the secondary he can turn a short catch to a long touchdown or burn the defense over the top. In the red zone Miami will try to target their big receivers Lawrence Cager and Darrell Langham.
FSU definitely has the advantage at kicker. Ricky Agauyo started off slowly just like last year but went 3 for 3 against Northern Illinois. He has experience in the rivalry and in the stadium. However, that doesn’t always mean success for Florida State kickers against Miami.
Bubba Baxa is a true freshman who is 4/5 this year but his long is only 38 yards. I would give Zach Feagles the edge over Logan Tyler in the punting game. The two teams have very talented athletes in the return game but Miami’s coverage teams have been performing better this season.
The connections between the two schools on the coaching staffs and rosters are another reason why this rivalry so heated. Most of the players played each other in high school and some even played on the same team. Miami receivers coach Ron Dugans went to FAMU DRS in Tallahassee, played for Florida State, winning a national championship in 1999 and was a grad assistant for FSU in ’05 and ‘06. Head coach Mark Richt was graduate assistant, QB coach, offensive coordinator under Bobby Bowden from 1985-’88 and 1990 until the end of the 2000 season when he took the head-coaching job at Georgia. Defensive graduate assistant Matt Gazzillo is a Florida State alumnus and my fraternity brother. (Come on ‘Noles this means a little extra for me too.) Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was a defensive grad assistant for FSU from ’98-’99. Cade Weldon and Brandon Jennings Jr’s dads are former Seminoles as well.
FSU tight ends Telly Lockette is from Miami and coached high school football at Miami Northwestern and Miami Central helping both schools claim state championships. FSU offensive line coach Greg Frey played for Mark Richt with the Seminoles from ’92-96. Defensive line coach Odell Haggins was on the same Florida State staff as Richt for 7 years. No doubt Manny Diaz learned a couple things from coach Haggins as well. Mario Edwards Sr. played one season for the Miami Dolphins after starring for the Seminoles at cornerback from ‘95 to ‘99.
Prediction and why
Both defenses like to bring the blitz in any situation. This will mean tackles for loss and chunk plays for both teams. When Miami brings the heat they are more consistent than Florida State at getting to the ball carrier. I think that miscommunication in the FSU secondary will lead to a long touchdown pass for Perry. Also, negative plays on first and second down for the FSU offense will force Francois to make bad decisions that will lead to a couple turnovers. These mistakes help Miami secure the victory. I think FSU keeps it close into the fourth quarter, but those turnovers will turn into touchdowns giving Miami a 34-17 victory. I hope the ‘Noles can prove me wrong because writing the last two sentences was very difficult!