The Miami defense prevented Jameis Winston from having his Heisman moment. They even picked him off twice. But the Hurricanes and the rest of the nation are quickly learning that Famous Jameis' supporting cast isn't too shabby, either.
Florida State held Miami scoreless in the second half and scored 20 unanswered points, as the No. 3 Seminoles moved to 8-0 on the season with a 41-14 thumping of Miami at Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday night.
The contest was a tale of two halves. In the first, No. 7 Miami looked like a team that could possibly pull off the mild upset in Tallahassee. In the second, Florida State dispatched of the Hurricanes in the same swift, dominant fashion they had Clemson two weeks prior.
Winston threw for 325 yards, growing more comfortable as the game went along. He completed 21 of his 29 passes, including a 48-yard touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman that gave the Seminoles a 21-7 lead with 5:08 remaining in the second quarter.
Though Winston threw only one touchdown pass, that was mostly due to circumstance. Freeman and James Wilder Jr. combined for four rushing touchdowns.
The dynamic running back duo each scored a third-quarter touchdown to stretch out the game from a 21-14 nailbiter at halftime to 35-14, three-touchdown lead. Freeman carried the ball 23 times for 78 yards and added 98 through the air on six receptions. In all, Florida State nearly doubled Miami's total yards, out-gaining the Hurricanes 517-275.
Without two mistakes from Winston, it's possible the game's final score could've been much more lopsided. He threw a bad deep ball in the first quarter that was picked off by Deon Bush, and another to Rayshawn Jenkins in the second (his first two-interception game of the season).
The picks led to Miami's only scores. Stephen Morris capped off a 65-yard drive with a 33-yard strike to Allen Hurns with 2:43 remaining in the first to tie the game at 7-7. The duo hooked up for a second time off Winston's other pick, their 14-yard touchdown pitch-and-catch making the score 21-14 just 22 seconds before the half.
But that was about it for the Hurricanes' positive offensive contributions.
Morris matched his two first-half touchdowns with two second-half picks, each leading to Florida State scores. The senior senior-caller finished with 192 yards on 16-of-28 passing but had multiple turnovers for the third time in four games.
Canes running back Duke Johnson wasn't able to provide much help, either. A week removed from a 168-yard, two-touchdown performance against Wake Forest, Johnson faced a wall up front all night versus the Noles. Though he finished with 97 yards on 23 carries , his average was buoyed by a few longer gains in garbage time once Florida State began playing prevent.
What lies next for the Seminoles is a waiting game. The second-ranked team in the initial BCS standings, Florida State dropped behind Oregon in the latest poll after the Ducks picked up computer points with their win over UCLA. With both Oregon and top-ranked Alabama idle this week, the Seminoles may wind up closing the deficit or even pulling back into the No. 2 spot.
The Hurricanes, who weren't even expected to sniff the Top 10 this season, still have a very good shot at a BCS bowl if they can get by Virginia Tech next week. The rest of their schedule is against the dregs of the ACC in Duke, Virginia and Pittsburgh. Getting past the Hokies and avoiding embarrassment in the ACC championship game are now their top priorities.
But for a team that came into Saturday with an outside shot at the national title, that secondary goal likely provides little solace.
Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State): B
Sometimes it's easy to forget Winston is just a freshman. That this is his first season on the national stage. That Florida State wasn't even considered a remote contender for national title in the preseason, mostly because no one believed Winston could be great this quickly.
It's nights like this where we're reminded to look at the birth certificate. Winston's first half was about as bad as we've seen him play. Both of his interceptions directly led to Miami touchdowns and possibly took points off the board for the Seminoles. Even though his other throws usually created positive headway down the field, the INTs aren't something one can ignore.
But in the final two quarters, it was Winston as usual. Not only did his performance pick back up to elite levels, he also showed leadership. When a skirmish broke out in the third quarter, Winston was there trying to break it up and calm down his teammates.
It's those leadership skills that are as impressive as anything he does on the field.
Duke Johnson (RB, Miami): C+
This is a chicken-or-egg situation. Did Duke Johnson perform any worse than he had in previous weeks...or was Florida State's defense just that good and impenetrable?
That's an answer that will have to wait until a more in-depth All-22 film study. But while watching the contest, it felt a whole lot more like the latter than the former. Florida State continuously plugged gaps, leaving Johnson to try to make the best out of a bad situation. Though he didn't help matters by needlessly shuffling his feet and missing a couple easy cuts, those are the breaks when you're running for your life every play.
It was comparable to Miami's other contest against a solid defense—Week 2 against Florida. In that contest, Johnson rushed 21 times for 59 yards. He picked up some solid chunks in garbage time to make this look less egregious, but Johnson would be the first to admit he wasn't at his best.
Devonta Freeman (RB, Florida State): A-
This just in: Devonta Freeman is good at football. In many ways. The Seminoles running back didn't have his best outing carrying the ball, but more than made up for it as a checkdown and screen option for Winston in the passing game.
He finished the game with 178 total yards, 98 of that in receiving. It's the first time this year he had more than three catches or 35 yards through the air, and he nearly tripled both totals. His three-touchdown night should prove a highlight of his already solid junior campaign.
Stephen Morris (QB, Miami): C-
For about the first two quarters, it was beginning to look like Morris would shock the world and outplay Winston. He had the two first-half touchdowns to Winston's one, hadn't turned the ball over and generally played really solid football.
And then he under-threw a deep pass that would have gone for a touchdown in the third quarter and things were never the same. Morris was a completely different player in the second half—inaccurate with his passes and seemingly rattled by the raucous sea garnet roaring in the stands.
The Seminoles start their first of four straight season-capping games against unranked opponents next week when they travel to Wake Forest. Miami will attempt to recover from its first loss by scoring a win when Virginia Tech comes to Sun Life Stadium next Saturday.
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