It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget.
On Oct. 6, the sixth game of 2018, both teams will be at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium in one of college football’s greatest rivalries. This week at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff, players and coaches from both teams reflected on UM’s 24-20 victory that snapped FSU’s seven-game win streak against the Canes.
“The best feeling ever,’’ Hurricanes senior safety Jaquan Johnson said.
“It was exciting —until the last play,’’ said FSU star defensive end Brian Burns, who played at Plantation American Heritage. “But other than that it was a great game.”
With six seconds left at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee last Oct. 7, University of Miami quarterback Malik Rosier lofted a 23-yard touchdown pass to receiver Darrell Langham, who broke the plane of the goal line before his knee touched the ground to give the Hurricanes the victory.
Said Johnson: “When we had our first defensive meeting, the first thing [defensive coordinator Manny] Diaz said was, ‘We come to Miami to beat FSU and win the national championship.’ ‘’
Burns, a 6-5, 231-pound Fort Lauderdale native, was in on that game-changing play against Miami.
“I remember rushing the quarterback and the ball going into the air and him catching it,’’ Burns said Thursday after a hearty laugh. “It was just like, ‘Yo, what are you all doing?’ I was just all over the place.”
UM coach Mark Richt was asked what winning that game did for the program.
“It was more of a relief,’’ Richt said Wednesday. “You lose seven in a row and you want relief. You want to ease that pain of hearing, ‘When are you going to beat Florida State?’ Just to win the game eased some of that pain and released some of that weight off our back.’’
New FSU coach Willie Taggart, who played for the Bradenton Manatee High Hurricanes as a teenager, called last year’s game “typical” in the rivalry.
“It always comes down to that series, that last drive, sometimes the last play,’’ Taggart said Thursday. “It’s good for college football when that rivalry is like that. It’s better for Florida State when we win.”
Sophomore running back Cam Akers, Florida State’s leading rusher (1,024 yards) who in 2017 broke the Seminoles’ freshman rushing record previously held by Miami central alum Dalvin Cook, said he can’t wait until the teams clash at Hard Rock.
“I definitely look forward to it,’’ Akers said, “because I’ve never played in that stadium and I’ve never felt that atmosphere.”
Akers said last year’s game was “a tough experience,’’ but a learning one, too.
“I learned that when adversity strikes, never quit,’’ Akers said. “Even when you’re up, always keep your foot on the gas. Because at the end of the game, time was winding down and a lot of people probably thought the game was going to be over and they made a drive and got all the way down.
“Just finish it. That’s all.”
Not if UM receiver Ahmmon Richards has anything to do with it. Richards was injured all last season, but still caught four passes for 68 yards against FSU.
“When we beat Florida State it was a great feeling because it hadn’t been done in like eight years,’’ Richards said. “So, just finally after being at the bottom end of the joke, we were able to finish the game and win. And the way we won just made it even that much better.”
Richards was asked if the victory will result in less pressure for the Hurricanes during the 2018 rivalry.
“That game is so wild, no matter the records, that the game is going to be played at a high level and any team can win it,’’ Richards said. “ But winning last year, it just kind of gave us that confidence that ‘We can do this. We can win big games.’
“And we can finish big games, also.”