Miami again torments Fla. State, 16-10, in OT

In opener, No. 4 Seminoles blow 10-0 lead, lose 6th straight game to No. 5 Hurricanes

September 11, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Miami and Florida State sent a message to the rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference last night: The league's title, expected to be the domain of either the fifth-ranked Hurricanes or the No. 4 Seminoles, is up for grabs.

While the advantage went to Miami with a sloppy 16-10 overtime victory before 78,622 mostly delirious fans at the Orange Bowl, neither team looked as if they'll be returning to Pro Player Stadium in January for the FedEx Orange Bowl national championship game unless they suddenly get a surge of offense.

"We weren't very efficient offensively in the first half," said Miami coach Larry Coker, whose team trailed 10-0 at halftime. "We never flinched. We never gave up. We fought until the end. We're not there yet. But I saw a pretty good football team out there. This is a great building block."

The same can't said for the Seminoles, especially quarterback Chris Rix.

Florida State might recover from their sixth straight loss to the Hurricanes, but Rix might not. The mistake-prone senior, who had been at least partially responsible for the previous four losses, had four turnovers last night, including a ghastly one at the end.

On third-and-13 from the Miami 28 in overtime, Rix fumbled a snap out of a shotgun formation and the Hurricanes recovered. Two plays later, Frank Gore raced for an 18-yard, game-winning touchdown.

"It's hard," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who on Thursday had attended the funerals of his 15-year-old grandson and former son-in-law, who were killed in a traffic accident during Hurricane Frances. "We had our chances to put the game away in the fourth quarter."

Asked about Rix, Bowden bit his lip. "It's beyond frustration," he said.

The Seminoles seemed stunned by the defeat. Unlike their recent losses to the Hurricanes, when Florida State often had to play catch-up before losing on missed field-goal attempts at the end, the Seminoles gift-wrapped this one for Miami by failing to hold on to a 10-3 lead in the final minute of regulation.

Starting at their own 20 with 1:22 remaining after blocking Xavier Beitia's 34-yard field-goal try with 3:58 left, the Hurricanes suddenly came to life. Quarterback Brock Berlin hit Roscoe Parrish for a 25-yard gain to the Miami 40, and officials tacked on 15 more for a roughing-the-passer call. Berlin then found Quadtrine Hill for a 10-yard gain.

With the clock ticking away, and the crowd getting nervous, Berlin tossed a short pass over the middle - the wide-open middle - to backup flanker Sinorice Moss, who finished a 30-yard catch-and-run with a tumble into the end zone with 30 seconds to go. Jon Peattie's extra point tied the score at 10.

"We kept our cool," Moss said. "We kept calm. I had a feeling if I got the ball into my hands, I was going to score a touchdown. It felt great to score and tie the game and give my team a chance to win."

The first overtime game in this rivalry ended like so many had in the past. After Rix botched the snap and fumbled, the Hurricanes recovered and took their shot from the 25. Gore gained 7 yards on the first play and took off through a hole on the right side.

Coker said later that he would have tried a field goal had Gore been stopped, but the junior tailback who suffered a severe knee injury last season and was re-injured during spring practice showed little effects from the surgery. He just ran past a tired Florida State defense.

"Frank did a great job tonight," Berlin said. "It showed his heart coming back from knee surgery."

Berlin had something to prove last night as well. After throwing 17 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns last season for the Hurricanes, Berlin played efficiently for most of the game and spectacularly at the end.

"We made a lot of big plays tonight," said Berlin, who finished 20 of 36 for 255 yards, throwing a touchdown to Moss and being picked off by Florida State's Antoine Cromartie on an over-the-shoulder catch. "We were third-and-long a bunch of times, and when that happens you have to be smart with the ball."

That is something Rix isn't, and hasn't been for much of his career in Tallahassee. After seemingly being at the top of his game during preseason workouts, the old Rix returned last night.

Tailback Leon Washington went as far as to suggest switching quarterbacks.

"We definitely have to make some changes," Washington said, speaking about Rix. "Maybe for the better and maybe not for the better. Chris is supposed to be our leader, and it's time for him to lead us. He needs to be challenged."

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