University of Miami

Miami’s defensive line overwhelms Florida State — and Cam Akers — to win in Tallahassee

The Florida State Seminoles don’t usually have to question the sort of situation they found themselves in with the clock ticking down toward six minutes Saturday in the first half against the Miami Hurricanes. They have Cam Akers, one of the most talented running backs in the country, and the decision is usually easy in fourth-and-1 situations like these.

Florida State sent its offense out to the field at its own 46-yard line and tried the simple play. Alex Hornibrook handed the ball to Akers and the tailback tried to dive forward.

There was no room to breathe. Hornibrook felt it all day. Akers felt it on this run for no gain and all throughout the first half, in particular. Miami’s defensive line could spend most of its day in Tallahassee celebrating sacks — it piled up a season-high nine of those — and tackles for loss — it had a season-high 16 of those, too. The Seminoles managed just 203 total yards. The Hurricanes bludgeoned them to win 27-10 at Doak Campbell Stadium in the annual Florida rivalry clash.

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It all began with Akers. The junior entered Saturday with 917 rushing yards — the 10th most in the entire country. In the first half, he had just 22 yards on 10 carries.

Only one of Akers’ 10 carries in the first half went for longer than 6 yards. He had only four carries go for 4 yards or longer, and five went for either no gain or a loss of yards. After six carries, Akers had accounted for negative yardage. Miami (5-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast) was outgaining Florida State, 206-88, at halftime.

The Seminoles (4-5, 3-4) have some of the same issues as the Hurricanes on offense. Their offensive line is porous and their quarterback situation unsettled. They both have fantastic running backs, although other offensive deficiencies keep them from utilizing them to their full capabilities. Akers is Florida State’s answer to DeeJay Dallas — a future NFL running back, who is too often the only reliable component to the offense, which means defenses scheme to take them out of the game.

The Hurricanes did the obvious thing because it’s what they always do. Coach Manny Diaz’s defensive philosophy begins with stopping the running game, which, in theory, lets Miami tee off on quarterbacks once the pass becomes obvious. Hornibrook saw it perfected.

Akers started with a run for negative-1 yard, then two decent chunk runs for 4 and 5 yards before Miami’s defense clamped down. Akers’ next three runs all went for no gain or negative yardage and Florida State had to start working through the air. Although Hornibrook opened 9 of 11 for 84 yards, the Seminoles only managed a field goal in the first half and the Hurricanes took a 14-3 lead into halftime. Akers’ first-half runs, by yardage: negative-1, 4, 5, zero, negative-4, negative-5, 15, zero, 2 and 6.

Akers started to get rolling in the second half — he finished with 66 yards on 22 carries, and caught three passes for 23 yards and a touchdown — but Florida State played from behind the entire second half. Defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau notched a career-high four sacks after setting a career high with three sacks last Saturday against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Five others recorded sacks, including safety Amari Carter, and the Hurricanes intercepted the Seminoles twice.

The quarterbacks took 66 yards worth of sacks — or exactly as much as Akers ran for.