MIAMI — Florida State junior LT Andrew Datko, who missed the previous three games with a left shoulder injury, returned to the lineup as expected for Saturday's matchup against Miami.
Without Datko, a mainstay for the previous two seasons with 25 starts, the Seminoles have had to reshuffle their line.
Against BYU, redshirt freshman Henry Orelus started for the first time at left tackle and did well but struggled the following week against Wake Forest and was pulled in favor of fellow redshirt freshman Garrett Faircloth. Last week at Virginia, the Seminoles opted to shift junior RT Zebrie Sanders to left tackle and use Orelus at right tackle.
But getting Datko back was big against a Miami defense that entered the game as the nation's leader in tackles for a loss (averaging 10.5 a game) and was second in sacks (4.3 a game).
"Zebrie and Henry are playing really well, but Datko's a whole other level," QB Christian Ponder said last week.
"Datko's a heck of a player."
Sure enough, Datko threw a nice block that helped clear the way for TB Jermaine Thomas to take a short pass and carry it 17 yards for a touchdown and the game's first score against UM. Datko and Ponder were the first to congratulate Thomas in the end zone.
A preview? FSU and Miami could, of course, meet again this year in the ACC Championship Game, which for the first time is outside of Florida; it's in Charlotte, N.C.
ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly said ticket sales for the game are "going pretty well," with only about 20,000 left in the 73,000-seat stadium. And those are in the upper deck.
The ACC also will be kicking off an aggressive marketing plan focusing on businesses within 150 miles of Charlotte, Kelly said, to sell more tickets before the matchup is set.
That "drive-market" is still ACC country and something the league couldn't do in Jacksonville or Tampa.
Familiar faces: The Hurricanes have three former Tampa Bay area standouts on the roster, beginning with senior LB Colin McCarthy (Clearwater Central Catholic). The other two are freshman RB Maurice Hagens (Tampa Bay Tech) and walk-on sophomore LB Akil Craig (Jesuit).
McCarthy was busy, good and bad. The good? Plenty of tackles. The bad was a late hit that kept a FSU drive alive late in the opening half.
Birthdays past: Fisher turned 45 on Saturday. He celebrated his birthday on the sideline four other times in his coaching career and was 2-2 in those games. That included a win at Florida in 2004 while he was at LSU.
Ties that bind: Aside from all the former high school teammates facing each other on Saturday (a total of 31 from 10 different Florida schools), the new FSU staff has ties to Miami.
Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was the Miami defensive backs coach (2001-03). Running backs/special teams coach Eddie Gran was a graduate assistant at Miami (1990-91) as was new defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot (2002).
And Chris Harvey, an assistant strength and conditioning coach, was a long snapper for the Hurricanes (2000-03).
Must-see TV: Saturday's game marked the 27th consecutive season and the 31st time overall that the FSU-Miami game was televised either regionally or nationally.