TALLAHASSEE — Moments after Florida State's 23-19 win over Miami on Saturday, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was ready to end any discussion about FSU's previous special teams woes in the rivalry.
"Can y'all quit writing about wide right?" Fisher asked.
Twenty years after the infamous missed field goal cost the Seminoles a win over Miami, FSU's special teams bailed out a sputtering offense and a defense that couldn't get off the field late at Doak Campbell Stadium. The result was FSU's fifth straight win overall and second straight over the Hurricanes.
Special teams saved the 'Noles (7-3, 5-2 ACC) early in front of an announced crowd of 82,322.
Travis Benjamin muffed a first-quarter punt for Miami (5-5, 3-4) when he backtracked on a booming Shawn Powell blast and FSU's Telvin Smith recovered the ball at the Miami 28. That set up a 37-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins, one of his three in the game. Powell averaged 54.8 yards on five punts and angled one out of bounds at the 1.
"We were really let down by the kicking game," UM coach Al Golden said.
And FSU could have been let down by its offense. The Hurricanes outgained the Seminoles 203-79 in the first half and by 124 yards in the game. FSU's running game averaged only 2.2 yards per carry, and EJ Manuel was sacked three times.
The 'Noles needed two official reviews to wipe away what could have been a safety for an intentional grounding penalty by Manuel in the first half. The Hurricanes took a 7-3 lead on the next drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jacory Harris to Clive Walford.
FSU's special teams responded. Greg Reid's 34-yard return set up a 21-yard strike from Manuel to Rodney Smith, the Seminoles' only offensive touchdown of the game.
"At the beginning we came out and didn't move the ball like we wanted to," FSU receiver Christian Green said.
The Seminoles' biggest special teams play came in the final minute of the first half as they clung to a 10-7 lead. UM's punt bounced high to Reid, who snagged the ball and saw nothing between him and the end zone.
"I looked up, and all I saw was the band, man," Reid said. "It was clearly open."
Reid raced 83 yards up the middle for a touchdown. His score seized momentum heading into the locker room and atoned for a mistake when the overanxious junior fielded a punt at the goal line.
"Greg thinks every return is a touchdown," Fisher said. "I'm going to tell you something: I would rather say 'Whoa' than 'Giddy up' any day of the week."
The Seminoles sapped the clock in the second half with two drives of more than nine minutes but couldn't reach the end zone. They mustered only two field goals on three trips into Miami territory.
That left the Hurricanes with a chance to make a late charge. Mike James punched in a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:27 left that cut Miami's deficit to 23-13. FSU's offense faltered again, and three defensive personal fouls kept the Hurricanes' final drive alive.
"You just don't want things like that to happen," safety Lamarcus Joyner said.
UM capitalized with another 1-yard scoring run by James, but special teams saved the 'Noles twice more.
The Hurricanes botched the snap on an extra point that would have cut the deficit to three, and FSU tight end Nick O'Leary snagged the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]