MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — An unlikely kick a week ago doomed Florida State.
An unlikely blocked kick now might have saved the Seminoles’ season.
DeMarcus Walker pushed through the line and blocked Miami kicker Michael Badgley’s point-after attempt with 1:38 remaining, and that was the difference as No. 23 Florida State escaped with a 20-19 victory over the 10th-ranked Hurricanes on Saturday night — the Seminoles’ seventh straight win over their archrival.
“That’s a Florida State-Miami game,” Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It’s great competition. Heck of a game.”
Heck of a finish, too.
Walker is from Jacksonville, Florida — which was hit hard by Hurricane Matthew, and that was on the Florida State star’s mind as he lined up for that crucial point-after play.
“I was just so heartbroken with everything that happened,” Walker said. “I did it for them.”
Dalvin Cook and Kermit Whitfield had touchdown catches in the third quarter. Deondre Francois, who left in the first half after being shaken up, came back and ended up with 234 yards passing for Florida State (4-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
“My team needed me,” Francois said. “The trainers got me right.”
The Hurricanes (4-1, 1-1) were in position to tie it after Brad Kaaya connected with Stacy Coley on an 11-yard touchdown pass. But the 6-foot-3 Walker pushed through some blockers and got his arm outstretched just enough to knock away what would have been the tying point from Badgley.
So once again, in a series defined so many times by missed kicks by the Seminoles — like “Wide Right I” in 1991 that wound up helping Miami win the national championship, an accomplishment the Hurricanes celebrated the 25th anniversary of Saturday — there’s now a new piece of lore.
“Not being able to protect well enough to kick an extra point is tough,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “Tough for everybody. But, to their credit, somebody cared enough to blast through and get it. It was a great effort on their part.”
Florida State saw its 22-game home winning streak end last weekend when North Carolina connected on a 54-yard field goal as time expired. But the streak over Miami lives on.
Cook finished with 150 yards rushing and had a 59-yard scoring catch to spark the Seminoles’ second-half surge, and Whitfield’s 20-yard catch on his 23rd birthday put Florida State ahead for good.
Coley caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Kaaya to help Miami take an early 13-0 lead. But for the third straight year, the Hurricanes saw a second-half lead slip away. Braxton Berrios set up Coley’s second TD catch with a punt return inside the Florida State 20, but it wasn’t enough.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” Kaaya said.
Kaaya lost a molar in the third quarter when he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Florida State’s Matthew Thomas, who was ejected for targeting — the second straight year a Seminoles player was tossed for targeting the Miami quarterback. And in the fourth quarter, Miami’s Jamal Carter was thrown out for a targeting hit against Whitfield.
Some Miami fans showered the field with debris at that point, and Richt wasn’t happy either.
But in the end, it was a kick that decided everything — and the break went Florida State’s way.
“This just shows the character and fight these guys have,” Cook said. “Hats off to Miami. Great team. They battled.”
Florida State: Cook has two career touchdown catches — both against Miami. … The Seminoles lost safety Nate Andrews in the first quarter, who was hurt on a play where he tackled Miami’s David Njoku. … Florida State now has a pair of seven-game winning streaks against Miami, this other coming between 1963 and 1972. … The Seminoles are now 13-2 under Fisher when playing in NFL stadiums.
Miami: The Hurricanes went 281 minutes, 28 seconds this season without trailing. They came into the night as one of only two FBS teams who hadn’t faced a deficit this season, with Boise State now alone on that list. … RT Sunny Odogwu got hurt in the fourth quarter, on a drive where the Hurricanes allowed back-to-back sacks of Kaaya at a critical time. Odogwu was taken off the field on a cart after time expired.
The second-longest active streak of AP Top 25 poll appearances will live on — since Florida State surely will hold a spot for the 76th straight week after this comeback win. Miami likely would have climbed a spot or two with a victory, though now the Hurricanes will drop several spots when the next installment of the poll comes out Monday.
Florida State: The Seminoles host Wake Forest on Oct. 15, looking for their fifth straight win in that series. Score of the last four matchups: 178-22, though last year was 24-16.
Miami: The next two games will likely decide Miami’s fate in the ACC Coastal race. North Carolina visits the Hurricanes on Oct. 15, five days before Miami goes to Virginia Tech.