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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Florida State Tops Miami

MIAMI (AP) -- Gary Cismesia tossed blades of grass skyward on the Florida State sideline, trying to decipher which way the wind was blowing.

Unable to figure it out, he went with the simplest plan: Kick straight.

With one swing of his strong right leg, Cismesia put a swift end to 15 years of Florida State's kicking woes against Miami. His 33-yard field goal with 8:01 left put the 11th-ranked Seminoles ahead to stay in their come-from-behind 13-10 win over the 12th-ranked Hurricanes on Monday night.

It was the second straight win in the series for the Seminoles, who also eked out a three-point win over their Sunshine State rival in last season's opener -- and took a piece of Orange Bowl sod back to Tallahassee as a souvenir from this one.

Drew Weatherford, who was awful in the 2005 win, was solid this time -- throwing for 175 yards, 62 of them on a pair of pivotal third-down conversions that set up the Seminoles' lone touchdown early in the fourth quarter. And Florida State's defense was dominant in the second half, holding Miami to 17 yards.

"In this series, it's been defense, defense, defense," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "Our defense has won in the past at times. But not tonight."

Offensive offense

That this year's Florida State-Miami game was a defensive battle surprised only the boldest of prognosticators. But the degree to which both offenses struggled Monday night could not have been foreseen by many. Here are the rushing stats, or lack thereof, from FSU's 13-10 season-opening win.

Michael Ray Garvin intercepted Kyle Wright's final pass with 29 seconds left, sealing the victory.

Florida State's offensive hopes almost entirely hinged on the passing game, since Miami's defensive front held the Seminoles to 1 yard on 25 rushes. Still, even a performance like that wasn't enough to carry the Hurricanes, who wasted a 10-3 halftime lead.

"You don't know how hard it is to beat Miami," Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. "I mean, I've been playing these guys for 31 years. They've probably got as good a defense as there is in the country, unless it's us."

Charlie Jones had a 4-yard touchdown run for Miami, which hadn't lost to Florida State in the Orange Bowl since 1998 -- and has now lost three of its last four games overall dating back to last season.

The revamped Miami offense struggled mightily; Wright was 18-of-27 passing, but gained only 132 yards. And the rushing game, like Florida State's, was nonexistent: Miami had 2 yards on 26 carries, the second-lowest total in school history.

Miami peeled off eight straight wins after losing to Florida State in the opener last year, ascending to No. 3 in the polls. Now, the Hurricanes -- who could see the Seminoles again Dec. 3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game in Jacksonville -- will need to dig out of an 0-1 hole once again.

"This is something that's going to test us," Wright said. "A good team's going to stay together and see them back in Jacksonville. And right now, we have to move on. We have to put it behind us."

Joe Surratt had a 1-yard touchdown plunge for Florida State on the first play of the final quarter, and De'Cody Fagg had three catches for 60 yards for the Seminoles.

Darnell Jenkins and Lance Leggett each had four catches and combined for 93 yards for the Hurricanes, but the duo made only one catch in the second half.

"They wanted it more than us and they showed it," Jenkins said. "We had the game in our hands."

Thanks to Cismesia, FSU kickers past -- Gerry Thomas, Dan Mowrey, Matt Munyon and Xavier Beitia -- may finally feel some relief. Each missed pivotal chances late in games against Miami in recent years, a trend that long befuddled the Seminoles.

Thomas missed in 1991, Wide Right I.

Mowrey missed the next year, Wide Right II.

Munyon's miss was in 2000, Wide Right III.

And Beitia missed three in his career against Miami -- wide left at the end of the 2002 game, another in the 2004 Orange Bowl loss to Miami, then a block in the Hurricanes' 16-10 win that opened the 2004 season.

But Cismesia -- who missed an extra point and then two field goals in overtime against Penn State last season in the Orange Bowl -- delivered.

"It's the best feeling I've ever had in football," Florida State linebacker Buster Davis said. "This is our stadium."

Weatherford -- now 2-0 against Miami as a starter -- had third-down passes of 28 and 34 yards on a third-quarter drive to breathe life into a stagnant offense, setting up Surratt's score that pulled the Seminoles into a 10-10 tie.

About 7 minutes later, Cismesia came through. And the Seminoles hung on.

"It just shows character on the part of the whole entire team," Weatherford said.

A close game shouldn't have surprised anyone at the Orange Bowl -- this marked the seventh time in the last eight meetings between the schools that the outcome was decided by eight points or less.

Cismesia hit a 37-yard field goal 6:04 into the game, opening the scoring.

Miami's first scoring drive was highlighted by a 27-yard catch by Jenkins, who adjusted and spun to grab a slightly underthrown ball shortly before Jones' touchdown run with 13:02 left in the half.

Jon Peattie added a 20-yard field goal later in the half, pushing the margin to 10-3. Miami's Brandon Meriweather had an interception shortly before halftime, giving the Hurricanes the ball at Florida State's 31 -- but the offense couldn't extend the lead, and that missed opportunity proved costly.

"We made no plays in the second half," Coker said


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