MIAMI — As Florida State defensive end Jared Verse celebrated a sack in Saturday’s 45-3 rout of Miami, he put his thumbs together in the Hurricanes’ U hand symbol, then smashed his hands over his knee.
It was a taunt he picked up from a week of watching highlights and hype videos of this storied rivalry, and it underscored the undeniable message from four quarters at Hard Rock Stadium: The U is broken, and the Seminoles have broken through.
“We were able to dominate that game with the true character of what this team is about,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said.
The true character for FSU (6-3, 4-3 ACC) is based on determination, hard work, toughness and resilience in all three phases.
The explosive offense built for playmakers has clicked into full gear. Jordan Travis hit receiver Ontaria Wilson for a 56-yard touchdown. Pinellas Park High product Lawrance Toafili took a wheel route 65 yards. Trey Benson ripped off a 42-yard run and spun over a wall of linemen on a near touchdown.
Even linebacker DJ Lundy scored, catching a 2-yard pass in the first quarter. It was his third touchdown in three offensive touches this season — proof that Norvell will use any playmaker he can.
The defense was equally impressive. It shut out Miami (4-5, 2-3) over the final 54 minutes while forcing four turnovers and five 3-and-outs.
The special teams unit shined, downing its first two punts inside the 3.
The all-around excellence resulted in FSU’s biggest win in the series since a 47-0 rout 25 years ago. The Seminoles have successfully responded from a three-game losing streak with back-to-back blowout wins that should have them on the verge of reentering the polls.
With Syracuse, Louisiana Lafayette and Florida left on the schedule, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Seminoles enter bowl season on a five-game winning streak to close Norvell’s third season. The program’s first 10-win season since 2016 is in play, too, if FSU can keep replicating Saturday’s showing.
“We came and showed up and played the way that Florida State Seminoles are supposed to play,” Norvell said.
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The Hurricanes? They came nowhere close to playing the way that Miami Hurricanes are supposed to play.
There are mitigating circumstances, chiefly the health of quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. The NFL prospect returned from the shoulder injury he suffered against Duke but left after reaggravating it. His backups, Jake Garcia and change-of-pace option Jacurri Brown, each threw an interception and combined for 38 passing yards.
Not that it mattered. Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes have bigger issues than one position. The offense has no identity. The 188 total yards were Miami’s fewest since a 32-point loss to Wisconsin in 2018. Last year’s offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, put up 77 points Saturday for SMU; Miami has scored 58 total over its last four games.
The defense missed too many tackles and continued to allow too many big plays. Even standout punter Lou Hedley misfired.
The lowest point came in the third quarter, as the Hurricanes pieced together their best drive of the night to get inside the FSU 10. Miami burned a timeout due to apparent confusion about how to line up on third and goal from the 6. Then Brown wasn’t looking as the snap whizzed by him and bounced downfield. Verse recovered, and FSU scored (again) five plays later.
The result: Miami’s worst loss since the 58-0 shellacking by Clemson that cost Al Golden his job in 2015, giving the Hurricanes their first single-season four-game home losing streak since 1973.
“Days like this are really painful,” Cristobal said. “There is no excuse, no side-stepping it or sugarcoating it.”
There’s no sugarcoating what’s coming, either. With Georgia Tech, Clemson and Pitt left, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Miami lose out to limp into recruiting season 4-8.
When these teams met in this stadium two years ago, social media buzzed about Miami’s 42-point win. Were the Seminoles that bad, or were the Hurricanes that good? Yes, and yes.
Saturday night was the polar opposite. This 42-point domination was the sign of one championship program that’s breaking through and another that’s broken.
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