- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
From a national perspective, a good bit of the luster has worn off the Florida State-Miami rivalry. But on the field Saturday, there was no trace that the venom between the two teams had diminished.
Florida State overcame a myriad of injuries, penalties and turnovers in what Jimbo Fisher decried as an especially physical game, but it wasn't the big stars that carried the Seminoles to their third straight win over Miami.
1. Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr.: The two backup running backs didn't miss a beat after starter Chris Thompson left Saturday's game with a knee injury. Freeman and Wilder combined for 119 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and the Seminoles' ground attack averaged 7.3 yards per carry on designed run plays following Thompson's departure.
2. Telvin Smith: The FSU middle linebacker had perhaps the best game of his career Saturday, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including two for a loss, one sack, two pass break-ups and one forced fumble. His sack and strip of Stephen Morris in the first quarter was a crucial momentum changer for an FSU team that had fallen into an early 10-0 defect.
3. Dustin Hopkins: Florida State fans are growing tired of seeing Hopkins on the field so much, but the Seminoles' kicker has been exceptional of late. In the past four games, he's connected on 13 field goals, including four in five tries against Miami. During that stretch, five of his field goals have come from 40 yards or longer.
1. Nick O'Leary: The first pass of the game for Florida State went to O'Leary, who promptly tried to hurdle a defender and coughed up the football, which led to an early Miami score. It was the lone reception for O'Leary in the past two weeks, and he was largely a non-factor in the passing game after that. Of course, O'Leary was hardly alone. Florida State fumbled five times Saturday.
2. Cason Beatty: Florida State's problems in the punting game continued Saturday, when Beatty shanked a rugby kick in the first quarter. The punt went just 17 yards and set up a Miami field goal. In two of the three previous games, Florida State has had a punt blocked, each time resulting in a touchdown for the opposition.
3. ACC officials: In the end, they're all judgment calls, but for the bevy of FSU fans eager to buy into conspiracy theories against their team, the refs provided plenty of circumstantial evidence Saturday night. At one point early in the third quarter, Florida State had nearly as many penalties (12) as Miami had points (13) and nearly as many penalty yards (121) as the Hurricanes had offensive yards (183).
2dDavid M. Hale
4dDavid M. Hale