For a half, Florida State did just about everything wrong and still held the lead.
And when the Seminoles finally got clicking, they simply pulled away from rival Miami.
EJ Manuel threw for 229 yards, Devonta Freeman ran for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and No. 12 Florida State overcame a shaky start to beat Miami 33-20 on Saturday night, the Seminoles' third straight win over their archrival.
Manuel completed 21 of 31 passes for Florida State (7-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won despite 12 penalties and five fumbles, two of them lost. Dustin Hopkins kicked four field goals for the Seminoles and James Wilder added a touchdown run for Florida State, which scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth to break open a three-point game.
"I didn't think it would be decided in the last few minutes, but it was an important game," Manuel said. "It's always a huge rivalry game, whether both of us are 1-9, it doesn't matter. Whenever you have Florida State and Miami squaring up against each other it's going to be a great game."
Stephen Morris, playing a week after spraining his left ankle, started and threw for 223 yards and a late touchdown for Miami (4-4, 3-2), which has lost three straight but controls its Coastal Division destiny.
Mike James had a touchdown run for the Hurricanes, who lost freshman Duke Johnson in the second half with an undisclosed injury.
Miami finished with 29 yards rushing on 21 attempts.
"Give Florida State a lot of credit," Miami coach Al Golden said. "They're a very good team. They're a very good team right now and they're deep and that's OK. That's OK. We know what we need to do. They're ahead of us right now. We need to buckle down and get better, develop our current team and need to add to it."
Freeman's 3-yard run with 11:53 left helped seal the win for Florida State, which was outgained 71-67 in the first quarter — but finished with a 447-258 edge in yards.
Freeman's touchdown runs were 3 and 5 yards, making the homecoming sweet for the Miami native.
"It felt great, man," Freeman said. "There's no feeling like it — especially with a 'W.'"
The win put the Seminoles a half-game ahead of Clemson in the ACC's Atlantic Division, which has four teams with one loss in league play.
The first half had a little of everything: Nine Florida State penalties, four Seminoles fumbles, two departures by the entire Miami roster for halftime before time actually expired, two coaches livid with officiating decisions made in the final 9 seconds alone, and one fan running onto the field during a play.
It all added up to Florida State 13, Miami 10 at the break.
By halftime, a slew of pregame activity seemed forgotten, such as Miami announcing just before kickoff that Morris — listed as doubtful on the final injury report — was starting at quarterback, and Miami Heat stars Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers hanging out on the sideline.
All that got overshadowed quickly, as the three-touchdown-underdog Hurricanes ran out to a two-score lead.
Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary fumbled the ball away on the Seminoles' first play from scrimmage, losing control as he leapfrogged Brandon McGee and landed on the helmet of Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman, who knocked the ball away. Mike James ran in from 9 yards out four plays later, and Miami struck first.
After Florida State shanked a punt 17 yards on its next possession, Jake Wieclaw connected on a chip shot and the Hurricanes had a 10-0 edge.
The Seminoles clawed back, taking a 13-10 lead at the break despite two offensive pass-interference calls — there was a third in the second half — and even after losing top rusher Chris Thompson to a left knee injury. Wilder's 17-yard touchdown run tied the game at 10, and Hopkins hit a 46-yard field goal to end an eventful flurry in the final seconds of the half.
Originally, after a Florida State penalty, officials ruled the half over because the 10-second runoff would have erased the remaining time, so Miami left the field. But Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher used his last timeout to nullify the runoff, giving Hopkins a chance to kick — which counted, even though replays showed Golden clearly signaling timeout to a linesman, who apparently didn't notice. So the Hurricanes left again, unaware 3 seconds remained.
"We got it straightened out. It's amazing," Fisher told ABC in a televised halftime interview.
His team had the lead at the break despite nine penalties, including two on kickoff returns and an offensive interference call against Rodney Smith that nullified a 50-yard gain and left Fisher fuming.
"That interference on the offense on that big play right there, I don't know if I've ever seen one like that for a guy not extending his arms," Fisher said. "But that's ball. We played a sloppy half."
And of course, there was a wide left — almost obligatory in a Florida State-Miami game, though hardly as dramatic as miskicks that doomed the Seminoles so many times before in this series. Hopkins missed from 44 yards with 12:31 left in the third, as Miami got away with giving Florida State a short field after an unsuccessful onside kick opened the half.
Hopkins and Wieclaw traded field goals late in the third quarter, sending the game into the final 15 minutes with the Seminoles up 16-13.
It didn't stay close much longer.
"Anytime you can come to Miami and beat Miami, that's a good day," Fisher said. "I don't care what you say."