The last time Miami defeated Florida State at home in football, future quarterback Brad Kaaya had just started third grade in Southern California, future running back Duke Johnson was about to turn 11 in Miami and a hurricane had just forced the Hurricanes to reschedule their annual game against the archrival Seminoles.
The date was Sept.10, 2004.
“Wow, it’s been 10 years since we last beat Florida State at home?” said Brock Berlin, the quarterback who orchestrated UM’s first victory as an Atlantic Coast Conference member — a 16-10 overtime win against FSU on a Friday night in a sold-out Orange Bowl. “I remember being so excited to be part of that. Florida State-Miami — there’s nothing like it.’’
Miami (6-3, 3-2 ACC) and FSU (9-0, 6-0) are less than a week away from their 59th meeting since 1951, a prime-time showdown at 8 p.m. Saturday at Sun Life Stadium, where the Hurricanes are 0-3 in their past three regular-season meetings. On Jan.1, 2004, following the 2003 season, UM defeated FSU in the Orange Bowl at Sun Life, then called Pro Player Stadium.
The Canes are 31-27 all-time in the series, but they have lost the past four in a row and seven of nine since that 2004 victory.
“I’ve been watching UM every week this season,” Washington Redskins receiver and former Canes great Santana Moss told the Miami Herald by phone. “I’m very impressed with the improvement. They’re playing some good football.
“Anytime it comes to FSU-UM, regardless of who has the best record, it’s always a dogfight. There’s no doubt in me that our guys will fight till the end.
“I’m always betting with us.’’
Several former Hurricanes reminisced about four of UM’s most memorable victories over FSU since 2000.
▪ Oct.7, 2000: No. 7 UM 27, No.1 FSU 24: Moss played outstanding football against FSU in his four years, but he only emerged victorious in the famous Ken Dorsey-directed “drive” game in the Orange Bowl, when sophomore Dorsey grew up in 51 seconds and Jeremy Shockey — and the game itself — became an instant classic.
“I had two key first-down plays on that drive to help us win,” Moss, now 35, said of the 68-yard, seven-play drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown toss to tight end Shockey with 46 seconds left. “Every time I got a chance to make a play, I had in my head, ‘Man, there’s no tomorrow. It’s do or die.’
“After my first [13-yard] catch in that drive, I ran out of bounds and Michael Irvin, who was standing on the sideline, grabbed me and said, ‘Come on, I need you fresh, get a breather.’
“The whole time he was talking to me he had my shoulder pads off my chest to make sure I could get enough air. Before long, Reggie [Wayne] and Shockey are catching passes, then I catch another [19-yard] pass and then we’re in the end zone.
Miami’s victory over FSU wasn’t sealed until FSU kicker Matt Munyon scripted Wide Right III with a missed field goal from 49 yards out as time expired.
▪ Sept.10, 2004: No.5 UM 16, No.4 FSU 10 (OT): Moss’ younger brother, Sinorice, produced his own heroics against FSU in the game, when, with 30 seconds left and the Hurricanes trailing 10-3, Berlin threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Moss and sent the season opener into overtime.
Then, after FSU quarterback Chris Rix fumbled an errant snap in overtime, Miami took over and tailback Frank Gore ran 7 yards and then 18 yards for the 16-10 victory that became another instant classic.
The game was supposed to be played on Sept. 6, Labor Day night, but Hurricane Frances forced it to be played four nights later.
Sinorice Moss, now 30 and a TV and film actor living in Los Angeles, said he “will always remember” the game-tying play and still hears receivers coach Curtis Johnson, now the Tulane coach, repeatedly saying, ‘If you make big plays against Florida State, I guarantee you’ll be a draft pick and play in the NFL.’
“We lined up and Brock audibled out and changed it to the quick screen, which was thrown to me, and the rest was history,” said Moss, who finished with a game-high 112 receiving yards on four catches – and was, indeed, drafted in the second round by the New York Giants in 2006. “That whole night the crowd was rocking. I’m getting chills talking about it now.”
Johnson, 53, said he savored the games against FSU.
“Every Florida State-Miami game was an NFL game,” he said Thursday. “If you did well against Florida State, the scouts figured you had the pedigree to play in the NFL.”
Joel Rodriguez, who grew up in Miami and graduated from Monsignor Pace, is one of the most fortunate Hurricanes to ever play in the UM-FSU series. Rodriguez was at UM from 2000 through 2004 and was part of the Hurricanes’ six-game winning streak over the Seminoles (including the bowl victory).
Now the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for Fordham University, Rodriguez, 32, was the starting center against FSU for the ’04 victory.
He said the Hurricanes included screen-play practice periods twice a week in those days, and it drove the players crazy. “It involved a lot of running and I remember thinking, ‘Why are we doing this over and over?’ After that screen was called and it worked, I swear to God, I never bitched again during practice.”
▪ Oct. 20, 2007: UM 37, FSU 29: Kirby Freeman did not have the football career of which he dreamed when he came to UM in 2004 to battle Kyle Wright for the starting job, but he will always have that heart-pounding 2007 finish in Tallahassee.
“I remember absolutely horrific numbers before that game-winning drive,” recalled Freeman, 29, on Friday from his home of Edmond, Oklahoma, where he is an orthopedic consultant and sits in during arthroplasty surgeries to monitor the bone-cutting instrumentation.
When Wright injured his ankle with less than six minutes before haltime, Freeman took over.
“I threw two picks and ran a fourth-and-inches and got stopped,” he said. “That’s when I decided I better do something remarkable the last time I have the ball.”
That, he did.
Freeman led the Canes 83 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, a 13-yard strike to tight end Dedrick Epps as two FSU players smashed Freeman in the ribs and sent him to the turf.
“I was on my back and heard the stadium go completely quiet except for the small Miami fan base that erupted,” he said.
The Canes led 30-29 with 1:15 left, and UM’s Colin McCarthy iced the miracle by returning an FSU fumble 24 yards for another touchdown 11 seconds later.
Freeman transferred for his fifth-year senior season to Baylor, started the 2008 opener and had a poor showing before he broke two bones in his left foot. He was replaced by freshman Robert Griffin III — now known as RG3 and the quarterback for the Redskins — who went on to win the 2011 Heisman Trophy.
▪ Sept.7, 2009: UM 38, No.18 FSU 34: In UM’s last victory against FSU that preceded the current drought, a dramatic, game-ending goal-line stand by Miami left FSU on the 2-yard line as time expired in Tallahassee. Christian Ponder threw three consecutive incompletions from the 2 before time ran out.
The offensive hero: sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, who drove Miami on a six-play, 59-yard drive that included a 40-yard pass to Travis Benjamin to set up the winning 3-yard touchdown run by tailback Graig Cooper.
Harris completed 21 of 34 passes for 386 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions. His passing yards were the most by a UM quarterback in a first start against FSU, and the most since Dorsey threw 422 against West Virginia in 2002.
“The game was amazing,” Harris said by phone from his new digs in Hamilton, Ontario, home of his Canadian Football League Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “A sea of garnet and gold with little spots of orange and green.”
Harris is now on the injured reserve list, but his Tiger-Cats beat the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday to earn a bye week before the playoffs. He said he plans to return home to Miami for “the greatest rivalry in the NCAA: UM-FSU.
“Lately, I’ve seen a bunch of guys playing hard,” Harris said of the Canes. “To me, there’s nothing better than Miami-Florida State. Everyone has fun.”