Sports

Seminoles allow 20-point lead to slip through their grasp in loss to UM

Canes linebacker Michael Pinckney: “We need a turnover”

Miami Hurricanes linebacker Michael Pinckney talks to the media after the 28-27 win over Florida State Seminoles during an NCAA college football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday October 6, 2018, in Miami Gardens.
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Miami Hurricanes linebacker Michael Pinckney talks to the media after the 28-27 win over Florida State Seminoles during an NCAA college football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday October 6, 2018, in Miami Gardens.

It was all looking good for Florida State.

A significant upset win on the road over No. 17 Miami appeared likely.

The Seminoles had a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter. They had the ball. They had silenced a near-capacity crowd at Hard Rock Stadium. They were in control.

This would represent a signature win for FSU, the biggest under first-year head coach Willie Taggart, perhaps a major turning point in a season that started poorly with a narrow win over Samford -- that’s Samford, not Stanford -- followed by a bad loss to Syracuse.

It was all right there for Florida State.

Until it wasn’t.

Two Deondre Francois turnovers led to two quick Miami touchdowns, the Canes added another go-ahead score a short time later, and an upset ripe for the taking spoiled into a bitter, 28-27 loss for Florida State.

“This one is going to hurt for a while,” Taggart said.

The Seminoles choked on Miami’s Turnover Chain, which had remained concealed throughout the entire first half before making a grand showing early in the second.

First, Francois lost the ball when he was sacked at his own 20. Four plays later, their lead was cut to 27-14 when N’Kosi Perry found Lawrence Cager in the end zone.

Next, Francois was intercepted at his own 17.

It only took one play for N’Kosi to complete another scoring strike to make it 27-21 -- 14 points in 42 seconds.

And when the Canes scored again, FSU’s collapse was complete.

“We did some things we knew we couldn’t do, which is turn the ball over,” Taggart said. “We stressed that all week, not getting any turnovers. We knew how this crowd would get into it if we turned the ball over. We had taken the crowd out.”

The outcome might have turned out differently had Ricky Aguayo not missed a 43-yard field goal on a kick that appeared to be partially blocked early in the fourth quarter. And a long touchdown pass was called back when referees flagged the Noles for an illegal forward pass. Replays were unclear whether D.J. Matthews was behind the throwing plane when he took a pass from Francois and threw it downfield to an open receiver.

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Miami Hurricanes linebacker Zach McCloud blocks a field goal by Florida State Seminoles kicker Ricky Aguayo in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday October 6, 2018, in Miami Gardens. David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The play was reviewable but referees decided not to go to videos to make sure.

“I thought it was good,” Taggart said of the play.

A win would have left Florida State at 4-2 with a difficult schedule ahead. Four of their remaining six games are against ranked teams.

Now they are 3-3, reeling from from their first loss at Miami since 2004.

“We played by far the best we’ve played all year and the second half we just didn’t finish it,” Taggart said. “(We) know we let one get away. We would have had a great one here if we didn’t turn the ball over.”

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