The Miami Hurricanes ended one lousy streak against Florida State last year and are ready, they hope, to destroy another.
One of the most passionate rivalries in college football continues at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, when the No. 17 Hurricanes (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who finally squashed that seven-year FSU win streak last season in Tallahassee, meet the arch-rival Seminoles (3-1, 1-2) at Hard Rock Stadium — which brings us to that second dreaded streak.
It has been 14 years since the Canes have beaten FSU at home. That’s six consecutive miserable home games for the UM crowd, which, except for a bowl game to end the 2003 season, has never seen the Hurricanes beat FSU at what is now known as Hard Rock.
“We know the history of the game is huge,’’ UM linebacker Zach McCloud said. “We know we haven’t won at home against FSU since 2004. We can’t keep repeating those kinds of mistakes.”
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The last time Miami defeated Florida State at home was Sept. 10, 2004 in the season opener at the Orange Bowl. After FSU kicker Xavier Beitia had his 34-yard field-goal attempt blocked by Devin Hester with 3:58 to play, UM quarterback Brock Berlin culminated an 80-yard, 52-second drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Sinorice Moss to send the game into overtime and set up Frank Gore’s winning touchdown run.
“It’ll change this week,’’ Gore, 35, now a Miami Dolphin, said Thursday of the Hurricanes’ drought at home. “Yeah, that was big, because I was just coming off my second ACL. I was seven, eight months out of surgery.
“...As long as we get the win, I’m OK. As long as them boys go out there and play Miami ball and represent the crib and get the win, that’s a plus.”
UM coach Mark Richt thinks so, too.
“You break a streak of losing seven in a row, that’s monumental because of the weight of it ... and everybody keeps track of that pretty good,’’ Richt said this week of last year’s victory. “Most people wouldn’t be able to just spout out that it was 2004 since the last time we won at home, but, yeah, that’s important. We want to take advantage of our home field advantage and our crowd noise, and we want to play great at home — and we have played pretty darn good at home.”
And that brings us to yet another UM streak. The Hurricanes have won 12 in a row at Hard Rock in the regular season, their longest such streak since winning 26 straight at home in the regular season from 1999 to 2003.
Joel Rodriguez, now UM’s director of player development/defense for the Canes, grew up in Miami Lakes and graduated from Monsignor Pace. Rodriguez played for UM from 2000 through 2004 and was the starting center in that last home win against FSU.
“I remember falling behind 10-0 and me and [fellow lineman] Chris Myers saying, ‘Holy crap, we have to find a way to get a first down,’’’ Rodriguez told the Miami Herald in a previous interview about the 2004 game. “FSU took the ball first [in overtime] and fumbled.
“I honestly believe the MVP for Miami of every single Miami-Florida State game during those years was [FSU quarterback] Chris Rix. He had a snap on third down that hit him right in the thigh ... Any other player in the country would have caught that snap. He found ways to win games for us and I’m very, very appreciative.’’
Fast forward from 2004 to last season, when receiver Darrell Langham, now a 6-4, 235-pound redshirt senior, caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from then-quarterback Malik Rosier with six seconds left at Doak Campbell Stadium to give UM the 24-20 victory in front of 78,169 crazed fans.
Langham has found a connection with UM redshirt freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who will make his first start Saturday in the storied UM-FSU rivalry that began in 1951 and has the Canes leading 32-30 in victories.
“I’m not really sure why they’re not doing as well,’’ Langham, who has eight catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, said this week of FSU. “Maybe it’s because there’s a new offense going on. But I have a feeling they’re going to come at us 100 percent like they always do.”
Perry, 31 of 51 (66.7 percent) for 442 yards and seven touchdowns, with three interceptions in four games, said that witnessing last season’s winning play from the FSU sideline “was a rush.”
“I’m ready for whatever,” he said of Saturday’s game, “but I feel like it won’t come down to that moment this year.”
Seminoles star defensive end Brian Burns, who played at Plantation American Heritage, might not know about UM’s losing streak at home, but he was on the field for last year’s Miami victory at FSU. Burns had 59 minutes 54 seconds of fun before Langham scored.
“It was exciting — until the last play,’’ Burns, a Fort Lauderdale native who already has five sacks, told the Miami Herald during the ACC Football Kickoff. “I remember rushing the quarterback and the ball going into the air and him catching it. It was just like, ‘Yo, what are you all doing?’
“Other than that it was a great game.”
New FSU coach Willie Taggart recalled that the game “always comes down to that series, that last drive, sometimes the last play. It’s good for college football when the rivalry is like that. It’s better for Florida State when we win.’’
The Hurricanes have preseason All-American safety Jaquan Johnson back for the game after he injured his hamstring in the first half at Toledo Sept. 15. Their defense already leads the nation in multiple categories.
The Seminoles are led by quarterback Deondre Francois, who did not play in last year’s game. He is 110 of 175 (62.9) for 1,377 yards and nine touchdowns, with five interception, and has been sacked 12 times.
Though UM is now a 13 1/2-point favorite, both teams have elite athletes, many of whom grew up with one another and view this game not only as a stepping stone to win their sides of the conference— UM in the Coastal Divison and FSU in the Atlantic — but as a major source of pride and bragging rights.
That’s why UM center Tyler Gauthier said last year’s streak-breaker “was a weight lifted off our shoulders.”
“When we came here, that was a big emphasis,’’ Gauthier said of the seven-game albatross. “There’s nothing I’d rather have than for us to win at home. I mean, it’s my senior year. You gotta beat Florida State your senior year. Doing it at home is going to be awesome.”ion CTA