University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes head into game with Florida State Seminoles seeking to turn tide of history

Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson (#8) gets tripped up by Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Arthur Williams (#96, bottom) and Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (#44) at SunLife Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, November 15, 2014.
Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson (#8) gets tripped up by Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Arthur Williams (#96, bottom) and Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (#44) at SunLife Stadium in Miami Gardens on Saturday, November 15, 2014. Miami Herald File Photo, 2014

This week, University of Miami football players did their best to convince the media — and maybe themselves — that 12th-ranked Florida State is just another opponent and the nationally televised, prime-time showdown Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium is just another game in a season with at least eight remaining.

Not especially convincing.

It took a true freshman out of Miami Booker T. Washington High School to sprinkle some old-school spice on his first trip to Tallahassee as a Hurricane:

“I know the guys are going to come out with a chip on their shoulders from last year,” Walton said, nonetheless reminding that he was “not trying to make it a bigger game than it is” and was “going to fall back” on his “training, like the coaches prepare me to do.”

Added Walton: “I know how this rivalry goes. … Once we see that horse go down and mascot [Chief Osceola] puts that spear in the ground, I feel it’s disrespectful.

“It’s going to be a very intense game.”

Count on it.

The Hurricanes (3-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) open league play Saturday against the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0) in a rivalry full of thrills and heartache, annually drawing huge TV audiences and packed crowds.

“It’s one of the great rivalries in college football and it’s a pleasure and honor to be part of it,” said Jimbo Fisher, who has defeated Miami five consecutive times since he became FSU’s coach in 2010. “They’ve got a great program, we’ve got a great program.

“We have a lot of respect for them. They have a lot of respect for us. Two teams that are going to play their tails off.”

The rivalry, which began in 1951 and is led 31-28 by UM, hasn’t been especially gratifying for the Hurricanes for several years. Last season, the then-defending national champion Seminoles were 9-0 when they met unranked 6-3 Miami at Sun Life Stadium.

UM led by 13 points at halftime and by six points after three quarters, then gave up a touchdown to Miami Central High’s own Dalvin Cook — now “day-to-day’’ with a sore hamstring — with 3:05 remaining for the eventual 30-26 FSU victory.

The Hurricanes promptly fell apart and lost their next three games, breaking off into factions split in many cases by ages and grades.

Now, the tighter, supposedly more focused Canes are bruised again, coming off an unexpected loss at underdog Cincinnati and going into hostile territory as a nine-point dog, desperately searching for their first signature win in the Al Golden era.

Golden’s future at UM is tenuous at best, and furious fans have been circling in for the final blow, bashing him on social media, calling in talk shows, flying various versions of “Fire Al Golden” banners at home and away games.

12Average number of points FSU has beaten UM by during the four years Al Golden has coached the team.

“I think he has tough skin,’’ said senior cornerback Tracy Howard, who has one last chance Saturday for a victory in the series. “We still have to go out there and play. We look at it, and we’re like, ‘It is what it is. It’s not going to stop.’

“So, at the end of the day, ain’t nobody got time to feel sorry.”

The last time UM defeated Florida State was in 2009 in Tallahassee, two seasons before Golden took over.

FSU has won eight of the past 10 games in the series. Before that, the Canes won six in a row.

FSU, in its post-Jameis Winston era, is trying to find its way offensively but still is ferocious on defense, boasting the nation’s No. 6 scoring defense (11.5 points allowed per game), No. 8 pass defense (141 yards allowed per game) and unfortunately for UM, the 20th best third-down conversion percentage defense.

The Canes, led by sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, are 126th of 127 nationally in converting third downs.

Kaaya, like Golden, just wants a complete four quarters. Receivers said Kaaya sent encouraging text messages to them this week.

“Players have to show up on game day,” Kaaya said. “That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to make the plays when they come to us. You can make all the plays you want in practice out here on Greentree [Field], but they’ve got to show up, you know?

“We’ve got to play all four quarters and finish until there are four zeros on the clock. That’s the biggest thing: a four-zero finish.”

The Hurricanes, already thin at linebacker, are hoping to get back starting weak-side backer Jermaine Grace (ankle) for this game and will get back Coley (hamstring), Golden said.

Fisher said Thursday that safety Nate Andrews (leg bone bruise) has made “mind-boggling” progress and is questionable for Saturday, with linebacker Terrance Smith (ankle) and running back Mario Pender (collapsed lung) out.

Cook, last year’s hero, will be a game-time decision.

Golden was asked this week if coaches were downplaying this game because of last year’s collapse afterward, especially with so much of the season left.

“It’s not that we didn’t recover,” he said. “We didn’t play well afterwards. It’s so easy just to sweep it into that corner and say, ‘All right, we had so much invested that we didn’t do that.’ There are a lot of factors that went into it. We examined those. That was last year.

“Our guys are excited about this game. I don’t have to get them fired up. They’ll be fired up.”

More coverage

▪ Slumping FIU back home, faces pivotal game against UTEP, 4B

▪ No. 11 Florida looking for payback against Missouri, 4B

Saturday: Miami at No. 12 FSU

Kickoff: 8 p.m.; Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee.

TV/radio: ABC; WQAM 560; WFTL 850; WURN 1020 (Spanish); WVUM 90.5 FM.

Favorite: FSU by 9.

Records: Miami 3-1 (0-0 ACC); FSU 4-0 (2-0 ACC).

Series: Miami leads 31-28.

Miami injuries: Questionable — LB Jermaine Grace (ankle); WR Stacy Coley (hamstring). Out — LB Marques Gayot (neck); LB Darrion Owens (knee); RB Gus Edwards (foot).

FSU injuries: Questionable — OL Abdul Bello (knee); DB Marcus Lewis (knee); OL Cole Minshew (ankle); RB Dalvin Cook (leg). Out — LB Terrance Smith (ankle); DB Nate Andrews (leg); TE Jalen Wilkerson (shoulder); RB Mario Pender (lung); DB Tyrell Lyons (ACL); DB Ryan Green (shoulder).

PROBABLE UM STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

15

Brad Kaaya

So.

DE

47

Ufomba Kamalu

Sr.

RB

2

Joe Yearby

So.

NT

93

Calvin Heurtelou

Sr.

FB

40

Gage Batten

Jr.

DT

92

Courtel Jenkins

So.

WR

6

Herb Waters

Sr.

LB

17

Tyriq McCord

Sr.

WR

11

Rashawn Scott

Sr.

LB

56

Raphael Kirby

Sr.

TE

5

Standish Dobard

Jr.

LB

5

Jermaine Grace

Jr.

LT

73

Trevor Darling

So.

LB

33

Trent Harris

So.

LG

67

Alex Gall

Jr.

CB

3

Tracy Howard

Sr.

C

68

Nick Linder

So.

CB

1

Artie Burns

Jr.

RG

63

Daniel Isadora

Jr.

S

25

Dallas Crawford

Sr.

RT

66

Sunny Odogwu

So.

S

2

Deon Bush

Sr.

PK

15

Michael Badgley

So.

P

16

Justin Vogel

Jr.

PROBABLE FSU STARTERS

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

P

NO.

PLAYER

YR.

QB

6

Everett Golson

Sr.

DE

44

DeMarcus Walker

Jr.

TB

4

Dalvin Cook

So.

DT

99

N. L-Stample

Sr.

FB

23

Freddie Stevenson

Jr.

NG

91

Derrick Nnadi

So.

WR

3

Jesus Wilson

Jr.

DE

9

Josh Sweat

Fr.

WR

15

Travis Rudolph

So.

LB

18

R. Hoskins

So.

TE

81

Ryan Izzo

Fr.

LB

5

Reggie Northrup

Sr.

LT

77

Roderick Johnson

So.

LB

35

Lorenzo Phillips

Jr.

LG

72

Kareem Are

Jr.

CB

8

Jalen Ramsey

Jr.

C

59

Ryan Hoefeld

So.

CB

27

Marquez White

Jr.

RG

78

Wilson Bell

So.

SS

20

Trey Marshall

So.

RT

74

Derrick Kelly

Fr.

FS

42

Lamarcus Brutus

Sr.

PK

19

Roberto Aguayo

Jr.

P

38

Cason Beatty

Sr.

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