MIAMI – Up by 10 points, against a heavily favored rival, the biggest home crowd of the season squealing with delight.
The first few minutes couldn't have gone much better for Miami. And the rest of the game served as a reminder that the Hurricanes still have plenty of work to do.
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 in the series.
"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."
The Hurricanes were up 10-0 midway through the first quarter — before Florida State scored 33 of the next 36 points. The Seminoles outgained Miami 447-258 and held the Hurricanes to 29 yards rushing on 21 attempts (and no rushing first downs). Duke Johnson, who left in the second half with an undisclosed injury that Golden said needed X-rays, had 27 yards on nine carries, and Mike James had 25 yards on seven attempts.
James also had a 9-yard touchdown run for Miami, which got a late score when Stephen Morris connected with Rashawn Scott from 8 yards out.
"How we came out today, we've got to keep bringing that every single week from now on," Miami defensive lineman Tyriq McCord said. "We're a championship team and we've got to play at a championship level."
The Hurricanes (4-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) aren't a championship team yet — but still could be this season. They're off until hosting Virginia Tech on Nov. 1 and can capture the Coastal Division by winning out in league play.
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.
"We understand that we're still in the fight for the Coastal," Morris said. "Sometime down the road, we'll see FSU again."
Morris, playing a week after spraining his left ankle, started and threw for 223 yards and a late touchdown for Miami, which has lost three straight.
"I was ready on Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Saturday, Sunday," Morris said. "It meant everything to me."
Manuel completed 21 of 31 passes for Florida State (7-1, 4-1 ACC), which won despite 12 penalties and five fumbles, two of them lost. Dustin Hopkins kicked four field goals and James Wilder added a touchdown run.
"Anytime you can come to Miami and beat Miami, that's a good day," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I don't care what you say."
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.
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. 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 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, after which FSU led 16-13. It didn't stay close much longer.