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3 things learned from No. 4 FSU’s home victory over Miami

By Bob Ferrante

Orlando Sentinel Correspondent

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State didn’t win a rivalry game in the 2018, ’19 and ’20 seasons. Now the Seminoles are a victory away from a sweep of Clemson, Miami and Florida — which the program hasn’t done since 2014.

Jarrian Jones’ fourth-down interception of Tyler Van Dyke halted Miami’s upset bid and gave the Seminoles a 27-20 win on Saturday night, Florida State’s third straight victory in the series.

“It’s just so big for the program, so big for our fan base, the university, everybody involved,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “I’m just proud of these players. To be able to win the last three in this series is big.”

Here are three things learned about CFP No. 4 FSU (10-0, 8-0 ACC):

FSU shows fight in second half

This storyline has been the case throughout 2023, from the opener with LSU through wins over Boston College, Clemson, Duke and Pittsburgh: FSU starts slow, needs a surge in the second half but makes plays late on offense, defense and special teams.

Going into Saturday’s game, FSU had outscored opponents 173-59 in the second half. While Miami fielded the onside kick to open the second half and got a field goal, the Hurricanes then punted on five straight possessions. FSU’s defense held Miami to 24 offensive yards and the Hurricanes converted for only one first down in that stretch.

Miami got an 85-yard touchdown on a busted coverage, but that was the only Hurricanes TD after halftime.

The Seminoles used some big plays of their own to move down the field and generate points. Ja’Khi Douglas’ 62-yard catch-and-run set up a chip-shot field-goal attempt. Trey Benson then weaved through the Miami defense on a 38-yard touchdown. And Keon Coleman’s 57-yard punt return set up FSU at the Miami 10, and Coleman caught a 6-yard TD pass to put FSU ahead 27-13.

“Obviously being down and coming back again, felt kind of like the LSU game,” FSU quarterback Jordan Travis said. “We just got to keep our foot on the gas.”

Coleman, Wilson make massive difference

Fans and media often ask: “Where would FSU be without …?” The answer against Pitt was the Seminoles showed fight and found solutions but also showed how much they missed Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson.

Against the Hurricanes, Wilson caught five passes for 82 yards while Coleman had the long punt return that set up his ACC-leading 10th touchdown reception. He had four receptions for 24 yards. Coleman is also the first FSU receiver to have 10 or more touchdown receptions since Auden Tate in 2017.

With Coleman and Wilson, the Seminoles confirmed they are a CFP-caliber program.

Defense allows chunk plays but little else

Miami gained 335 yards. But the Hurricanes gashed FSU with eight chunk plays (four rushing plays of 10 or more, four passing plays of 15 or more) that went for a combined 261 yards. Consider what FSU’s defense did:

The other six Miami completions went for 36 yards. That’s just six yards per catch.

Miami’s other 30 rushes went for 38 yards. That’s just more than one yard per run.

The defense also benefitted from junior punter Alex Mastromanno, who had seven kicks that averaged 49 yards. His first punt went 52 yards and pinned Miami at its own 2, prompting a three-and-out. A 51-yard punt went out of bounds at the Miami 5. Mastromanno put Miami in tough positions and facing long fields.

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