It was quite possibly the biggest hold-your-breath moment in the storied history of the Miami-Florida State football rivalry.
Instant replay would decide whether the Hurricanes were going to rejoice over quarterback Malik Rosier’s go-ahead, 23-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Langham with six seconds remaining, providing the ball broke the plane of the end zone. If not, Miami would get the ball back outside the FSU 15 due to a UM unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the TD celebration.
After a couple agonizing minutes of review and a pro-FSU crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium fearing the worst, the verdict came down: Miami’s seven-year losing streak to the Seminoles was over, at least after the ‘Canes finally tackled D.J. Matthews when he returned the ensuing kick beyond midfield.
You could tell UM’s 24-20 victory was meaningful when head coach Mark Richt fell to one knee to give the touchdown signal. Either that, or he was giving thanks that Rosier, a first-year starting quarterback, had the composure and toughness to lead a 75-yard drive in 1:18 to deliver a potential win for the ages.
After a lackluster first half in which Rosier completed just 4 of 16 passes, and UM trailing 3-0, the redshirt junior flipped the script after halftime by completing 15 of 28 passes for 220 yards and three TDs. Rosier and FSU freshman quarterback James Blackman combined to lead their teams to 31 fourth-quarter points and through four lead changes, with No. 13-ranked Miami (4-0, 2-0 in ACC) prevailing only by virtue of having the last possession.
UM masterfully drove it down the throat of the Seminoles defense on the final drive, using Travis Homer runs of 10 and 14 yards to get into FSU territory. Star receiver Braxton Berrios also converted a pair of third-and-10 situations into first downs, the last one setting up one of the greatest plays in UM history.
With FSU in man-to-man press coverage, Rosier floated a perfect pass down the right sideline for Langham, who beat cornerback Tarvarus McFadden for the game-winner. Had the touchdown been overturned on review — due to the ball not breaking the plane when Rosier’s knee was down – Miami would have had no choice but to attempt a game-tying field goal to send it into overtime.
But the initial TD call was upheld, giving Richt the signature victory of his 17-game era in Coral Gables. It also provided some validation that Miami will be a legitimate ACC contender, something that has mostly eluded the ‘Canes since joining the league in 2004.
For FSU, suffering its third loss in four games, it was a gut punch that practically eliminates the ‘Noles from the ACC Atlantic Division race, unless North Carolina State loses three league games or unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Clemson somehow falters.
To his credit, Blackman, who has filled in admirably for the injured Deondre Francois, showed as much moxie as Rosier in leading FSU back from deficits of 10-3 and 17-13. He threaded a third-and-10 TD pass to tight end Ryan Izzo to tie things up 10-10 with 12:17 remaining. He also found a wide open Auden Tate for a 20-yard TD to give FSU the lead with 1:24 left, sending the Doak Campbell crowd into a frenzy.
But in another epic finish in this series, it was Rosier and Miami who cut the heart out of FSU. One year after Demarcus Walker’s blocked PAT preserved a 20-19 Seminoles victory, the Hurricanes got some much-needed vindication.
If UM wanted to serve notice that its program is to be taken seriously again, they had to beat FSU. It didn’t require a famous Wide Right or Wide Left, but the ‘Canes finally pulled it off with a different kind of dramatic finish.