Miami 28, Florida State 27: Another errant field-goal attempt by the Seminoles as time expires preserves the Hurricanes' top ranking.
By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 13, 2002
MIAMI -- Florida State placekicker Xavier Beitia ripped his helmet off and stared disbelieving at the goal post and the Orange Bowl scoreboard. Around him, the ecstatic and relieved Hurricanes celebrated.
His 43-yard field goal try on the final play hooked wide left, preserving Saturday's 28-27 come-from-behind UM win that keeps the top-ranked Hurricanes on course for a shot at a second straight national title.
"I'm an old man and that's the best game I've ever seen," UM coach Larry Coker said.
"That was something," FSU coach Bobby Bowden added.
Something he has seen before. He and his Seminoles have watched a last-minute field goal fail against the 'Canes four times in the past dozen years, three times here: in 1991 by Gerry Thomas, 1992 by Dan Mowrey and 2000 by Matt Munyon. All were wide right.
"I simply can't believe we lost the game like that again," Bowden said. "I thought we had it. I was running out there to shake his hand. I thought we won the darn thing. But I've had that picture several times in my career."
UM's win two years ago signaled its return to national prominence and that's the kind of outcome the No.9 Seminoles (5-2) desperately sought before a national television audience and a record crowd of 81,927.
They were 8-4 last season and suffered a stunning loss at Louisville last month in overtime to tumble in the polls and put any hope of a national title in jeopardy.
But the Seminoles, 13-point underdogs, seemingly had pulled off the upset. They built a 27-14 lead thanks to the punishing blocking of their experienced and talented offensive line that opened up gaping holes for tailbacks Greg Jones (189 yards) and Nick Maddox (74). FSU had 296 yards rushing, 55 more than UM had been allowing in total offense.
"I don't know what to say. I felt like we outplayed them," FSU senior offensive tackle Brett Williams said.
FSU also took advantage of an inordinate number of miscues. Miami (6-0) committed 14 penalties for 109 yards; one negated a 53-yard pass play and another, an unsportsmanlike penalty to start the fourth quarter, sustained a FSU drive that Jones capped with an 11-yard run for a 13-point lead.
"Penalties should have cost us the game," Coker said.
Senior quarterback Ken Dorsey also threw two interceptions and fumbled away a quick snap after an FSU turnover on its 15 that could have extended UM's 7-0 lead.
"We did everything wrong to put them into that situation to win the game," Dorsey said. "I think we realized the game was in jeopardy and we took it upon ourselves to make something happen."
Dorsey, who endured more pressure than in the two previous meetings combined, hit Kevin Beard in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown to cut FSU's lead to 27-21 with 8:10 left.
After UM forced a FSU punt, Dorsey (20-for-45, 362 yards) and the 'Canes looked like one of the nation's best offenses. A screen pass to tailback Willis McGahee went 68 yards to the FSU 11 and backup tailback Jason Geathers followed with a touchdown run. The extra point gave UM the lead.
UM's defense again held and the offense could have run out the clock. FSU held and forced a punt. But Freddie Capshaw shanked one 3 yards to the FSU 46 with 2:05 left.
"I knew all we needed was three for the win and I tried to get us in field-goal range," said FSU quarterback Chris Rix, who threw for a career-low 83 yards on 8-for-19 passing but didn't turn the ball over; he had four interceptions and two lost fumbles in last year's 49-27 UM rout in Tallahassee.
On third and 4 from the UM 48, Rix hit receiver Talman Gardner for 8 yards and a first down then, in the grasp of two defenders, hit Gardner for 15 yards to the 25.
After two runs for no gain, the second of which put the ball in the middle of the field, Rix spiked the ball with one second left to set the stage for Beitia, the 19-year-old sophomore who played for Jesuit High of Tampa.
"I was not nervous," Beitia said. "I was thinking, "Just make the kick. Just make the kick.' The same thing that always goes through my head."
Long-snapper Brian Sawyer said the humidity made the ball slick and he sent a low snap to holder Chance Gwaltney. He barely got it down.
"I was saying, "Please it be blocked or something,"' McGahee said.
Dorsey said he couldn't watch.
FSU cornerback Stanford Samuels said he and his teammates were celebrating before Beitia even attempted. Beitia made 11 of 13 field goals coming in and hit from 45 and 42 yards against UM.
"Nine out of 10 times, X is going to nail it, split it," Samuels said. "Give us our credit. Everybody said it would be a blowout game, that Florida State doesn't have it this year. We went out there and battled, no, we dominated a great team. In the end, fate has a hand in everything."
"I've been here before," Bowden said. "I can't stand it. It makes me sick. Our kids did not deserve to lose the ballgame. They played us like champions. I told our kids if they're No.1 in the nation, what does that make us? We're nearly as good."