MIAMI — Midway through the third quarter at Sun Life Stadium, No. 2 Florida State found itself in a much too familiar position — trailing, with the nation's longest winning streak at stake.
"We needed a break, you know?" quarterback Jameis Winston said.
And they got one, off the hands of Miami defensive end Tyriq McCord.
The Jefferson High alum batted Winston's third-down pass and into the arms of Karlos Williams, whose touchdown helped turn a 16-point deficit into a 30-26 FSU win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
"That's what this team does. That's just who we are," Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It's our personality."
By crawling back from another double-digit hole, FSU (10-0, 7-0 ACC) did more than top the rival Hurricanes for the fifth year in a row. With No. 1 Mississippi State falling to Alabama, Florida State made its case to regain the top spot in the polls.
And by extending the nation's longest winning streak to 26 games, the Seminoles also kept themselves firmly in the playoff hunt and alive for a second consecutive national championship.
And FSU did so in its usual dramatic fashion.
The Hurricanes (6-4, 3-3) held FSU to only 14 yards in the first quarter, and the Seminoles trailed 16-0 before they even picked up their initial first down. One Seminoles third down featured two drops: quarterback Jameis Winston bobbled the snap, and tight end Nick O'Leary dropped the pass near the sideline for what would have been a first down.
Miami, meanwhile, was clicking. True freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya had twice as many passing yards in the first half (240) as Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Duke Johnson (27 carries, 130 yards) became the first player in Miami history with 5,000 all-purpose yards and added a touchdown run. On the ensuing kickoff, Miami's Deon Bush forced a Kermit Whitfield fumble recovered by Corn Elder. That turnover led to a field goal and a 16-0 Hurricanes lead that could have been bigger had they not missed a field goal and had Jalen Ramsey not blocked an extra point.
"They fought their tails off," UM coach Al Golden said. "They just made a couple more plays than we did."
Perhaps that's because the Seminoles had been here before, falling behind 21-0 at Louisville and trailing by 17 at North Carolina State before rallying both times. So this time was no different, even after Winston's pass into double coverage ended with Bush's interception at the UM 4 to end the half.
The Seminoles' fortunes began to change with that lucky bounce late in the third quarter. Winston's 11-yard pass to Karlos Williams — by way of McCord —cut UM's lead to 23-17.
"Honestly when that happened, I just thought to myself, God's on our side tonight," said Ramsey, who forced a fumble and broke up four passes.
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FSU's second-half adjustments finally paid off. After feasting on passes over the middle in the first half, Kaaya (16-of-34, 316 yards) was pedestrian in the second half against FSU's nickel defense. And the offense finally started to get going.
FSU's Roberto Aguayo tied a career high with a 53-yard field goal midway through the fourth that made it a three-point game. And after the Seminoles forced a three and out, FSU came up with the biggest drive of the game.
It needed only four plays before Miami native Dalvin Cook ripped off his second highlight-reel touchdown of the night. The true freshman broke three tackles on his way to a 26-yard touchdown with 3:05 left.
"Every time he gets a little open space, I feel like he can squeeze it out for six," center Cameron Erving said.
Kaaya drove UM to the 43 on the final drive, but Ramsey intercepted a fourth-down pass with 39 seconds left to keep the Seminoles undefeated —and perhaps boost them back atop the national rankings.
"What a special group of guys," Fisher said of his team. "When you measure this team for 60 minutes, it measures up pretty good — against anybody."
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.