The drought is over.
A season after ending their seven-year losing streak to Florida State, the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes roared back from a 20-point deficit in the third quarter Saturday to defeat Florida State 28-27 for Miami’s first home victory against the Seminoles since 2004.
The Canes (5-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) put most of the Hard Rock Stadium crowd of 65,490 in a joyous tizzy with their first regular-season victory at Hard Rock ever against FSU (3-3, 1-3).
“I was talking to the players after the game and I said, ‘Men, I’m trying to think of one game in particular that I felt better after the game,’” UM coach Mark Richt said, noting that the victory gave him “a better feeling’’ than the one last year against Notre Dame.
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Miami, fueled by its stifling defense, scored the final three touchdowns in the second half — two within 42 seconds in the third quarter and another with 11:52 left in the game to give UM its final lead.
UM’s initial third-quarter touchdown, after a strip-sack by safety Sheldrick Redwine and fumble recovery by tackle Gerald Willis, was a fourth-down fade pass from quarterback N’Kosi Perry to Lawrence Cager to make it 27-14 at 4:53.
“That was huge because we needed that chain to get us going,’’ defensive end Joe Jackson, who had two sacks, said of the turnover chain-inducing play. “That changed our momentum in a huge way, and in these game, momentum will take you far. I was just thrilled to get off the field.’’
The Canes’ next touchdown was a 17-yard completion to Jeff Thomas (three catches for 76 yards) — one play after UM linebacker Michael Pinckney intercepted a Deondre Francois screen pass.
The final UM touchdown was a 41-yard pass to freshman tight end Brevin Jordan.
Perry finished 13 of 32 for 204 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
“I didn’t ever get down on myself,’’ said Perry, whose 40.6 completion percentage was the worst of his career. “I know I missed a couple open targets, but at the half I wasn’t pouting. ...It wasn’t anything I couldn’t come back from.’’
The Canes, who held FSU to 200 yards (45 in the second half) finished with six sacks (two apiece by Joe Jackson and Jonathan Garvin), 12 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles among their defensive numbers. Senior safety Jaquan Johnson, a preseason All-American who returned Saturday after missing two games with a hamstring injury, led all players with 10 tackles.
FSU’s Francois finished 15 of 30 for two touchdowns, with an interception.
“It feels amazing, especially with the slow start we had and rallying in the second half to get the W,’’ said Johnson, when asked how it felt to be part of a senior class that went out with back-to-back wins against FSU.
The thick tension between the teams was evidenced from the start, when the Hurricanes and Seminoles came face to face as FSU left the field after pregame warmups. Players from both teams were on edge enough at halftime for officials to form a human wall between them so they could exit separately through their separate tunnels without getting into an altercation.
“That’s just the rivalry,’’ said Johnson, who led both teams with 10 tackles. “A lot of us know each other. We’re playing for bragging rights and we want to win the game, so you can expect that for every game [with] Miami and FSU. It was really nothing different from previous years.’’
Seminole DJ Matthews had returned a punt 74 yards early in the third quarter to give FSU a 27-7 lead.
Officials called back what appeared to be a 39-yard FSU touchdown early in the fourth quarter, charging Matthews with an illegal forward pass on a trick play — though it seemed very close according to replays.
“He threw it in front of him,’’ FSU coach Willie Taggart said. “I thought it was good.’’
Taggart said his players were “hurt.’’
“Seniors are upset. They don’t have the chance again to play against Miami.’’
UM had its own fourth-quarter frustration, missing a 28-yard field goal attempt by Bubba Baxa wide right. Had he made it, the Canes would have had a four-point lead with 5:39 left to play.
Miami regrouped after a disastrous first half.
The difference in that half: the final three FSU drives that started near midfield— or a lot better — and resulted in 13 points for the Seminoles after the score was tied at 7-7.
First came a fumble by Perry as he dropped back to pass and was sacked by FSU defensive end Brian Burns, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale and played at Plantation American Heritage. FSU took over at the UM 43 and drove six plays for a 42-yard field goal by Ricky Aguayo to make it 10-7 FSU with 4:20 left in the half.
Francois seemed to hurt his left knee during the drive, but returned to the game after backup Seminoles quarterback James Blackman ran the final two plays.
After UM’s three-and-out, Florida State punt returner Matthews sprinted 44 yards to the UM 36 to set up a 17-yard touchdown on a 17-yard pass from Francois to Tamorrion Terry for a 17-7 FSU lead with 1:32 left in the half.
Finally, the Canes would have had the ball at their own 47, where Thomas returned the ensuing kickoff, but UM’s Scott Patchan was called for holding. Meanwhile, kickoff specialist Logan Tyler, who also is the FSU punter, yanked Thomas’ facemask so hard that Thomas fell awkwardly and according to WQAM, hyperextended his left knee.
Thomas, who limped heavily off the field and later told reporters he was still in pain, somehow returned in the third quarter for the touchdown.
The holding and facemask calls offset each other, but officials then penalized UM’s bench for rushing the field in anger in response to the illegal tackle. UM started at its own 25-yard line, failed on a fourth-and-3 pass attempt from the FSU 48, and the Seminoles kicked a 53-yard field goal four plays later for the 20-7 halftime lead.
UM plays its next four of five games on the road, starting at 7 p.m. Saturday with Virgina (3-2, 1-1). The Cavaliers were off Saturday.