The first time Braxton Berrios touched the ball Saturday at Florida State it resulted in disaster.
He more than made up for it, putting up a career-best individual peformance for catches (8 for 90 yards) and earning a tiny slice of Canes history in the process.
With his 21-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter Saturday, the 5-9, 186-pound senior became the first Hurricane receiver since Reggie Wayne in 2000 to open a season with a TD catch in his first four games and the first since Leonard Hankerson in 2010 to score in five consecutive games dating back to last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl victory over West Virginia.
Berrios later put the Canes ahead 17-13 with 5:09 to play when he hauled in a six-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone, beating Kyle Meyers on the play.
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Later, during the game-winning drive, Berrios converted two third-and-long situations with a 17-yard catch in UM territory and then an 11-yard grab to the FSU 23, setting up Darrell Langham for his winning touchdown catch moments later.
For Berrios, who dropped a touchdown his freshman year against FSU and got tripped by the punter on a punt return in last year’s game, it was a day of sweet redemption.
“I knew coming into that it was do or die,” said Berrios, who leads the Canes with 282 yards receiver. “I'm either going 0-4 against them or we’re flipping that page. Personally, I was flipping that page. To come out and have a game like that. I haven’t looked at the stats, but I was ready for a moment. I can’t describe how it feels.”
The day started off rough for Berrios.
With the Seminoles pinned down at their own 6, he fielded a 52-yard punt by Logan Tyler and started running the wrong direction. Not only did Berrios lose six yards on the return, but he was also flagged for a facemask on the play, docking the Canes an additional 15 yards and 73 yards total of field position.
Berrios later made up for it with the longest punt return of his career, dashing for 44 yards to setup Miami’s go-ahead touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Malik Rosier to UM up 10-7 in the third quarter. Berrios’ previous career long on a punt return was 43 yards last season against FSU. That catch came after he had been called for offensive pass interference earlier in the quarter.
“I guess I've got to watch how I stiff arm,” Berrios said. “But, it's football. It's a long game. That pass interference call, I felt I was being interfered with and I had to make a play. That's just one of those things you have to take in stride and move onto the next play.”
The Hurricanes lost two of their best players with 5:35 to play in the fouth quarter when running back Mark Walton and right tackle Navaughn Donaldson both limped off the field after a Walton run.
Coach Mark Richt said Walton, who finished with 25 yards on 12 carries, was still ailing from his ankle injury.
“He felt better than a week ago going in, but it’s hard to just play this type of game with elite athletes on both sides of the ball and not be 100 percent healthy,” Richt said. “He struggled.”
Richt said the reason receiver sophomore star receiver Ahmmon Richards wasn’t in the game late was because his sore hamstring was bothering him.
There were dozens of recruits in attendance for Saturday’s game including one of the best players from Miami in Belen sophomore tailback Don Chaney Jr., the Miami Herald’s 2017 Athlete of the Year in Miami-Dade County. Chaney has said in the past he favors UM, but is also interested in Florida State.
▪ As usual, there were plenty of connections in this edition of the UM-FSU series.
Fourteen Seminoles are from Broward or Miami-Dade. UM junior running back Mark Walton and defensive lineman Demetrius Jackson and FSU linebacker Matthew Thomas graduated Miami Booker T. Washington High. UM offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Navaughn Donaldson and FSU defensive tackle Fredrick Jones and defensive back Calvin Brewton graduated from Miami Central. FSU safety Ermon Lane went to Homestead High. FSU cornerback Tarvarus Mc Fadden and defensive end Brian Burns were both coached by UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph at Plantation American Heritage High.
▪ The Miami offensive starters: quarterback Malik Rosier, running back Mark Walton, tight end Christopher Herndon, receiver Ahmmon Richards, receiver Braxton Berrios, receiver Dionte Mullins (making his first career start), left tackle Kc McDermott, left guard Trevor Darling, center Tyler Gauthier, right guard Navaughn Donaldson, right tackle Tyree St. Louis.
▪ The Miami defensive starters: end Chad Thomas, tackle Kendrick Norton, tackle RJ McIntosh, end Joe Jackson, linebacker Zach McCloud, linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, linebacker Michael Pinckney, cornerback Malek Young, safety Jaquan Johnson, safety Sheldrick Redwine, cornerback Dee Delaney.