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CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Miami coach Al Golden was unhappily correct.
To beat Florida State, Golden said in the days leading up to the annual Hurricane-Seminole showdown, his team would have to find a way to throw a knockout punch against the defending national champions.
The chances were there.
They just didn't cash in, and as such, Miami's wait for a breakout win — and breakthrough season — will continue into at least 2015.
Sunday was filled with lament for the Hurricanes, who had a 16-point second-half lead slip away in a 30-26 loss to Florida State in a game that helped vault the Seminoles back to No. 1 in the AP Top 25.
"I'm proud of the way we're playing," Miami running back Duke Johnson said. "I'm proud of the way we rallied. I'm especially proud of the defense. But we came up short. That's what it is."
The loss knocked Miami from the Atlantic Coast Conference race, and ensured that for an 11th straight season the Hurricanes will finish with no more than nine wins.
"No one's here to pat themselves on the back," Golden said Sunday afternoon. "We're crushed from it. But there's so many positive things that we can learn from it and move forward and I just know with our leadership that that's what we have to do."
Moreso than any of the losses in this five-year run of being unable to beat Florida State, Saturday's defeat will have Miami thinking about what might have been for some time.
The chances that went awry:
— A missed field goal and a blocked extra point loomed large, with the final margin being four points.
— Two big pass plays, both of which got the Hurricanes into Florida State territory, were wiped out when the tight end on the receiving end of those Brad Kaaya throws — Clive Walford on the first, Standish Dobard on the second — fumbled the ball away at the end of their respective runs.
— Braxton Berrios dropping what looked like a sure touchdown catch.
— Raphael Kirby dropping an interception three plays before Florida State's Dalvin Cook scored the first of his two touchdowns of the night, one that got the Seminoles on the board after Miami jumped out to a 16-0 lead.
Again, Golden was right.
A knockout blow was needed — and Miami was merely able to get Florida State on the ropes.
"There was a lot of things that we did well in the game," Golden said. "In the end, we needed to be plus-one in the turnover margin; we had a couple costly turnovers. And we didn't convert a lot of our shots, to be quite honest with you. I'm looking at my sheet here and six or seven shots in the second half ... we really didn't have the explosive plays that we needed to get to knock them out."
Miami finishes the regular season with Virginia and Pittsburgh, and with two wins could possibly wind up in the Pinstripe Bowl — a game at Yankee Stadium which would seem to be a good fit, given how large the Hurricane alumni base is in the New York-New Jersey area.
"We have to get over the loss and close out the season the way we want to close out the season," Kirby said. "We need to get over this loss — that will be the main focus."
There's no moral-victory talk going on at Miami, but the Hurricanes did have their chances and the Seminoles got some breaks, most notably when Tyriq McCord's deflection of a pass by Jameis Winston went straight into the air and into the arms of Florida State's Karlos Williams for an easy touchdown.
Golden thinks it's all a sign that the Hurricanes are getting closer to where they want to go.
"Our kids are going to understand that," Golden said. "It's not going to make them feel better, but they're going to understand that moving forward."