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Florida State pulls away to top Miami

TALLAHASSEE — The skies were so clear, the air so crisp, the audience so cacophonous, fate couldn't help but extend the reunion theme at Doak Campbell Stadium for another half.

Seven days after Bobby Bowden's graceful return to the field bearing his name, the Florida State-Miami mojo came back. For a spell.

With a stadium-record throng (84,409) and a national audience watching, the rivalry once annually deemed must-see TV again was scrappy, chippy and, for 30 minutes, close.

Then, the No. 3 Seminoles validated the sturdy sentiment that far more than four ranking spots separate these programs.

Spotty in the first half, FSU (8-0, 6-0 ACC) scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half en route to a 41-14 victory for its fourth consecutive triumph in the series and 12th ACC win in a row.

"That's what we wanted," said FSU freshman quarterback and resident Heisman hopeful Jameis Winston, who finished 21-for-29 for 325 yards but also had two interceptions for the first time in his eight-game career.

"We wanted this to be a fight. We didn't want this to be another walk in the park, we wanted this to be a fight. We were unsatisfied with ourselves and down on ourselves (at halftime), so that was a good sign, and we were able to come back and fight."

The most efficient red-zone team in Division I-A, FSU scored on all six of its trips inside the 20, had a dozen plays of at least 15 yards, and hit the 40-point mark for the eighth time in as many contests, a school record.

Devonta Freeman totaled 176 yards rushing, and Plant High alumnus James Wilder ran for two touchdowns, matching his season total. Winston, meantime, became only the sixth freshman in ACC history to reach the 2,500-yard passing mark.

But at intermission, the No. 7 Hurricanes (7-1, 3-1) clawed back enough to have some believing their ranking possessed some validity and Winston possessed some mortality.

FSU's 21-14 halftime lead represented only the second time in eight games an opponent had been within a touchdown of the Seminoles at the break.

FSU opened the game with a 13-play, 72-yard drive, ending with Freeman's 5-yard scoring run. The 'Noles converted all three of their third downs on the march.

But the 'Canes counterpunched.

Though an 11-play drive on their first possession resulted in a missed field goal, defensive back Deon Bush intercepted a deep third-and-8 Winston pass on FSU's ensuing possession.

Five plays later, UM quarterback Stephen Morris found Allen Hurns in single coverage down the right sideline for a 33-yard touchdown to tie the score.

"That's going to happen. I saw Peyton (Manning) the other day throw three picks after going about nine games without throwing one," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.

"When you keep making decisions as a quarterback, you're (bound) to make one wrong, but I was extremely proud of the way (Winston) dealt with that and put it behind him and came out in the second half."

FSU responded with two more touchdowns, including Freeman's 48-yarder off a simple Winston screen pass, before Miami resuscitated itself just before halftime.

Defensive back and Admiral Farragut alumnus Rayshawn Jenkins intercepted Winston's crossing pass over the middle, setting up another Morris-to-Hurns TD — this one from 14 yards — with 22 seconds to go in the first half.

Miami even got the ball to open the second, but Morris was sacked by defensive back Terrence Brooks on third and 8. Ten plays later, Wilder darted to the left pylon from 5 yards for his second touchdown of the night.

On Miami's next play from scrimmage, FSU defensive back P.J. Williams — burned on Hurns' first TD grab — atoned when he came up with a Morris deep ball at his 21. FSU capitalized with a nine-play, 79-yard drive.

And some Miami fans began to exit.

So too, did the mojo.

"We needed one more score in the first quarter to put some pressure on them and then be able to stay with the running game," Miami coach Al Golden said. "Once we started getting behind it unraveled a little bit."

Florida State pulls away to top Miami 11/02/13 [Last modified: Sunday, November 3, 2013 12:54am]

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