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It was no classic, but Florida State still can savor a victory over Miami

Quarterback EJ Manuel scrambles out of the pocket during an efficient game that helped FSU win its fifth in a row.

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Quarterback EJ Manuel scrambles out of the pocket during an efficient game that helped FSU win its fifth in a row.

TALLAHASSEE

Somewhere, you imagine, Bobby Bowden might have changed the channel. Somewhere else, Jimmy Johnson might have lost his lunch.

This is what they have done to their game? This is what remains of the most essential rivalry in college football? This is how far FSU and Miami have fallen?

It was ugly as roadkill, this one. It was penalties and replays and turnovers and pestilence and locusts and botched plays and bad calls and bad football. It was enough to make every All-American who has ever taken part in the rivalry hold his nose.

On the other hand, it was FSU over Miami.

For Jimbo Fisher, and for the others who follow his program, that never feels bad.

There was nothing classic about FSU's 23-19 victory over Miami on Saturday evening. No one will win a national championship from here, and no one will win a Heisman. More than anything, this was FSU proving why it was No. 43 and Miami proving why it was No. 45 (in the Anderson-Hester computer rankings, one of the BCS components) while scouts from the Chick-Fil-A Bowl looked on.

Still, that was Miami on the other sideline.

For FSU, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

"You win the game," Fisher said. "You find a way to win. That's part of athletics. Everyone wants you to be pretty. Everyone wants you to be perfect.

"Competing doesn't work that way. That's in the movies. I keep saying this isn't entertainment. It's competition, and there is a difference. In entertainment, you script it, you set it up and a guy makes the big play, the heroic play. He throws a TD or makes the big run. This is real life.

"Do we have problems? Yes. Do we have to fix some things? Yes. But there is a knack for learning how to win."

Give the Seminoles credit for that. It was the fifth straight win for FSU, which forgives a lot of stumbling. As a program, FSU is like a guy circling the frat house as he tries to find his way to the party. For all it may have lacked, this was at least a step toward reclaiming the program that used to be.

Yes, the Seminoles have to be better. They rushed for only 63 yards all night. They fielded a punt at their own goal line. They had 10 penalties. They gave up 124 more yards than they gained and nine more first downs than they made. They did not take advantage of several opportunities to close out the game.

Miami? Miami was worse. It muffed punts and it threw interceptions and it seemed as if it had never covered a kick.

"The flow of that game was weird," Fisher said. "It was a different type of game. It wasn't fluid. There was no rhythm to the game. It was two teams scratching and clawing."

Actually, if you count the officiating, there were three teams that were struggling. There were eight reviews and 19 penalties. There was a fumble that wasn't a fumble and safety that wasn't a safety and a replay ruling that was overturned after a second replay ruling.

For those who remember the classic Miami-FSU matchups, where both teams always seemed to be ranked high and the rosters were chocked with No. 1 draft picks and the play was thrilling and the result usually came down to a last-second kick (usually missed by FSU), then this was a stunning sight, as if the rivalry had been taken over by, oh, North Dakota vs. South Dakota.

Still, FSU won.

Still, it beat the alternative.

"When you start to become a good team, you don't always play well," Fisher said. "But you can figure out how to scratch and claw and make plays at the right time and win. Hopefully, that's what we're learning to do."

Bottom line, there is no problem with winning ugly. If Fisher is indeed going to rebuild this program, it will take some days like this. Sometimes, you have to travel dirt roads, and sometimes, you hit a few potholes.

No, this was not the FSU that Fisher, or perhaps you, wants it to be. It was not smooth enough. It was not explosive enough. It was not pretty enough.

For FSU, however, it was a win.

Sometimes, that's enough.

It was no classic, but Florida State still can savor a victory over Miami 11/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 12, 2011 11:21pm]
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