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Stephen Morris returns, struggles in Miami Hurricanes’ loss to rival Florida State Seminoles

There was intrigue leading up to the game, buffoonery during it and at least on this particular night, a packed, rockin’ house at Sun Life Stadium.

And in the end, the team that was expected to win, did. But it needed 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull away.

No. 12 Florida State defeated Miami 33-20 Saturday, handing the Hurricanes their third consecutive loss.

The Seminoles (7-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have defeated the Hurricanes (4-4, 3-2) the past three years, and six out of the last eight.

"We have to develop our guys and recruit some more and keep working, and don't make any excuses,'' said UM coach Al Golden. "They're a better team right now.''

Hurricanes fans waited all week to see which quarterback would start — usual starter Stephen Morris, who sprained his left ankle last week against North Carolina, or backup Ryan Williams.

Morris, who was listed by UM as “doubtful,’’ got the nod.

Morris struggled to find open receivers downfield, fumbled once, was sacked at least four times and threw an interception. But he also kept the Hurricanes close enough to make it exciting for the 73,328 in attendance.

"Until you see him go out there and run around and actually stress it like he did in pregame, we were uncertain,'' Golden said. "I don't regret playing Stephen in this game. I thought he gives us the best chance to win the game, and we didn't get it done."

FSU had a 13-10 lead at halftime, despite being flagged nine times for 82 yards in the first half. The Seminoles fumbled five times and lost two of them in that half.

But the Noles persevered in the second half, with depth and experience helping them pull away from the scrappy, young Canes, whose defense helped keep them in the game. The teams traded possessions in the latter half, but FSU still came away with field goals of 35 and 48 yards by Dustin Hopkins, and two touchdown runs by Devonta Freeman.

"I said, 'Listen, you did about everything wrong you could do,''' FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said he told his players. "'But you overcame it and had a lead.' That says something. To me, that's a sign. People say that's crazy, but I think that shows a competitive, good football team that's growing up and learning to fight through things.''

The biggest crowd of the season seemed to enjoy it all, especially with just under six minutes to go in the first quarter, when a male fan jumped onto the field, pulled his orange shirt over his head (and then off) and led security to a chase toward the west end zone. He was eventually tackled and taken off the field.

Those fans — including Heat players LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — were fired up from the start. Miami jumped out to a 7-0 lead following a turnover by FSU on the Seminoles’ opening offensive play. EJ Manuel rolled out at first-and-10 from the FSU 19-yard line, and found tight end Nick O’Leary for seven yards in the flat. UM linebacker Denzel Perryman then smacked the leaping O’Leary in mid air, causing him to fumble. Fellow linebacker Jimmy Gaines recovered, and the crowd went wild.

Miami took over on the FSU 22, and four plays later, tailback Mike James charged nine yards into the end zone. James also had a pretty, one-handed grab for six yards in the series. The Canes led 7-0 with 11:06 left.

The Seminoles tried again, to no avail. This time they punted, and that went wrong, too. Cason Beatty shanked the punt 17 yards, and the Canes took over at the FSU 34. UM needed seven plays to score, but a 19-yard field goal is all it could manage after three attempts from within 10 yards. Hurricanes 10, FSU 0.

The Seminoles scored the next 10 points on consecutive drives, finally getting on the board with one minute left in the first quarter on a 33-yard field goal by Hopkins. The five-play, 16-yard drive began after linebacker Telvin Smith tackled a scrambling Morris, who fumbled. Christian Jones recovered for FSU. The field goal cut the Seminoles’ deficit to 10-3.

FSU’s first touchdown came at the expense of star running back Chris Thompson, who entered the game with 640 yards and hurt his left knee when he was tackled by safety Vaughn Telemaque after a 32-yard reception. He didn’t return, and was on crutches on the sideline by the end of the game. Last season, Thompson fractured two vertebrae in his back, and missed the last seven games.

After Thompson’s run, which put FSU at the Miami 45, James Wilder Jr. took over at tailback and eventually scored on a 17-yard burst on the left side with 9:14 left in the first half. The 90-yard drive made it 10-10.

FSU went ahead 13-10 on a 46-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half — a field goal that came after both teams thought the half had ended and started running toward their locker rooms. The half had seemingly ended with an FSU false start penalty by left tackle Cameron Erving. But officials said that FSU coach Jimbo Fisher had called a timeout, giving the Noles a chance to kick the field goal.

UM lost its all-purpose yardage leader, Duke Johnson, with 1:15 left in the third quarter. Johnson, who has been battling a turf-toe injury, did not return. Golden said he didn’t know Johnson’s status.

The Canes are off until November 1, when they play host to Virginia Tech (4-4, 2-2) for a Thursday-night ESPN game.

"We just have to take a deep breath,'' Golden said. "It's been a long 12 weeks against a really tough schedule playing a lot of young guys. We need to get healed up and see where we're at over the next couple days. See if we want to practice at all or if we won't. We'll see, and then get ready for Virginia Tech.''

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