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FSU vs. Miami: Preview, keys to victory

FSU and Miami will renew one of the most storied rivalries in college football on Saturday afternoon in Doak Campbell Stadium. It will be the 66th meeting between the two programs, with the Hurricanes holding a 35-30 lead in the series. Miami has won the last four meetings in the series. FSU (3-6, 2-4 ACC) enters the game trying to snap a two-game losing streak. Miami (5-4, 3-2) enters the game trying to secure bowl eligibility and looking to extend its three-game winning streak. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN. Mark Jones will handle the play-by-play with Robert Griffin III providing analysis. FSU enters the game as a 2.5 point underdog.

Miami 2021 schedule and results

Miami 14 Alabama 33

Miami 25 Appalachian State 23

Miami 17 Michigan State 38

Miami 69 Central Conn. State 0

Miami 28 Virginia 30

Miami 42 UNC 45

Miami 31 NC State 30

Miami 38 Pitt 34

Miami 33 Georgia Tech 30

Coaches’ Corner

FSU graduate and graduate assistant coach Manny Diaz is in his third season as Miami’s head coach, where he has compiled an overall record of 19-14. Diaz also serves as his teams defensive coordinator.

“I would say it’s like a holiday,” said Diaz earlier this week when asked about the rivalry between the two schools. “It’s the football event of the year. It’s been that way since I was a kid. I just love seeing the uniforms on the field together. I just love the way the colors look. I think about the great games, the great players, the great players who have played great in these games and the fantastic finishes. It’s how I remember college football being, a game where the ultimate stakes were on the line and the intensity level played by both teams was unmatched. To be part of it in my career, on both sides, has been a major blessing.”

Rhett Lashlee is in his second season as Miami’s offensive coordinator. Prior to his arrival at Miami, Lashlee had stints as offensive coordinator at SMU, UConn, Auburn, Arkansas State and Samford.

Former FSU defensive lineman Todd Stroud is on staff at Miami as a Senior Football Advisor to Diaz. He has served as the team’s defensive line coach in 2019 and 2020.

By the Numbers: Miami’s Offense vs FSU’s Defense

Miami Total Offense- 454 YPG (24th in NCAA) vs FSU Total Defense- 389 YPG (69th in NCAA)

Miami Rushing Offense- 144 YPG (85th) vs FSU Rushing Defense- 153 YPG (69th)

Miami Passing Offense- 310 YPG (15th) vs FSU Passing Defense- 235 YPG (72nd)

Miami Scoring Offense- 32.9 PPG (31st) vs FSU Scoring Defense- 28.1 PPG (71st)

Miami Third-Down Offense- 41.1% (56th) vs FSU Third-Down Defense- 39% (72nd)

Miami Sacks Allowed- 3.0 spg (110th) vs FSU Sacks Made- 2.78 spg (26th)

Miami Run Plays Over 10 yards- 46 (68th) vs FSU Runs Allowed Over 10 yards- 48 (83rd)

Miami Pass Plays Over 20 yards-41 (16th) vs FSU Passes Allowed Over 20 yards- 31 (81st)

Miami on Offense

Miami’s one-back spread offense has been on a roll since freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (6-4, 220) took over for an injured D’Eriq King, who was lost for the year after the third week of the season. Van Dyke has led Miami to four wins in his six starts this season. He has thrown for 1,877 yards, 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions while completing 64 percent of his passes. The Hurricanes had not scored more than 25 points in a game prior to Van Dyke taking over the reigns of the offense. With Van Dyke as the starter Miami has scored at least 28 points in all of six of his starts and have scored 31 or more points in its last four ACC games. While the strength of Van Dyke’s game is throwing from the pocket he has shown he can buy time in the pocket with his feet.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” said FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller earlier this week about Van Dyke. “Usually, success has to breed confidence. It looked like his confidence bred the success. He feels really confident in what they’re asking him to do. They keep it pretty clean for him with similar formations, they spread things across the fields so they’re pretty clean for him. He’s got a real live arm. He’s big, he’s got a back that can create some plays for them as well, which always helps out a quarterback. They’ve been winning on the outside. I think it’s no secret that he’s offered a big spark to that football program. He’s done a really good job.”

Another freshman has taken over a prominent role in Miami’s offense this season due to injury. Running back Cam’Ron Harris was lost for the season six games into the season. Jaylan Knighton (5-10, 190) has been more than a capable replacement. Knighton, who was once an FSU verbal commitment in 2019, leads the team in rushing with 482 yards on 102 carries including four touchdowns. Knighton has the speed to take the ball the length of the field on any given play. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and when lined up in the slot. Harris is sixth on the team with 13 receptions for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami likes to spread the ball around in its passing game as 15 players have registered at least one reception this season. The team’s most reliable and productive pass catcher is junior wide receiver Charleston Rambo (6-1, 185). The Oklahoma transfer led in the team in catches (58), receiving yards (860), touchdown catches (5) and is averaging 14.8 yards per reception. Rambo can stretch the field and is a very good ball carrier after the catch. Senior Michael Harley (5-11, 182) is second on the team in catches (35) and third on the team in receiving yards (341). Freshman Keyshawn Smith starts at the third wide receiver spot and he is third on the team in receptions (30), second in receiving yards (387) and has scored two touchdowns. Starting junior tight end Will Mallory (6-5, 250) has 19 catches on the season for 216 yards.

The Hurricanes’ offensive line averages 6-4 and 316 pounds and is very experienced. Senior right guard Navaughn Donaldson (6-6, 348) is the most veteran of the bunch, having totaled 41 career starts. Junior right guard DJ Scalfe (6-3, 305) has 37 career starts, sophomore center Jakai Clark (6-3, 300) has 27 career starts and sophomore left tackle Zion Nelson (6-5, 315) has 29 career starts.

By the Numbers: NC State’s Defense vs FSU’s Offense

FSU Total Offense- 378 YPG (85th) vs Miami Total Defense- 405 YPG (85th)

FSU Rushing Offense-191 YPG (40th) vs Miami Rush Defense- 135 YPG (47th)

FSU Passing Offense- 188 YPG (107th) vs Miami Pass Defense- 270 YPG (112th)

FSU Scoring Offense- 28.1 PPG (71st) vs Miami Scoring Defense- 30.2 PPG (95th)

FSU Third-Down Offense- 37.4% (82nd) vs Miami Third-Down Defense- 41.1% (91st)

FSU Sacks Allowed- 2.89 spg (104th) vs Miami Sacks Made-2.67 spg (30th)

FSU Run Plays Over 10 yards- 61 (18th) vs Miami Runs Allowed Over 10 yards- 42 (56th)

FSU Pass Plays Over 20 Yards- 23 (96th) vs Miami Passes Allowed Over 20 yards- 31 (81st)

Miami on Defense

Diaz took over the defense this season after a disappointing finish on that side of the ball in 2020. However, Miami’s 4-3 defense hasn’t been much better this season. Seven of its nine opponents have scored 30 or more points against the Hurricanes this season. Miami’s depth on defense has taken a hit this season especially in the secondary. Safeties Bubba Bolden and Gurvan Hall Jr., along with cornerbacks Al Blades Jr. and DJ Ivey, have either been lost for the season or not expected to play against FSU. The foursome had combined to start 68 career games. Bolden and Hall are still listed among the team’s top six tacklers despite playing in just seven games.

The strength of the Miami defense is found in its front seven. Senior defensive end Zach McCloud (6-4, 254) is the leader of the unit and its most experienced player with 46 career starts. McCloud has 25 tackles on the season and leads the team with seven tackles for a loss (TFLs) and with 4.5 sacks. Senior Jonathan Ford (6-5, 318) is the anchor in the middle of the defense. Ford has 30 career starts and has made 12 tackles this season when not occupying opposing blockers from his defensive tackle spot.

The middle of the defense features two of the team’s most productive players. Junior outside linebacker Waymon Steed (5-11, 220) leads the team with 43 tackles. Senior Amari Carter (6-0, 202) is fourth on the team in tackles with 37 stops this season from his outside linebacker spot. He also has three TFLs on the season. Freshman middle linebacker Corey Flagg Jr. is having an outstanding season. He is third on the team with 40 stops and also has three tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Miami’s secondary is young and inexperienced, featuring just one sophomore and three freshmen among its starting four. Sophomore cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (6-0, 215) is fifth on the team with 34 tackles and has one interception on the season. Freshman safety Kam Kinchens (5-11, 200) is seventh on the team with 31 tackles. Freshman safety James Williams (6-5, 224) leads the team with two interceptions and has also made 30 stops in nine games.

Miami on Special Teams

Freshman Andy Borregales will handle the place-kicking duties. He is 11 of 15 this season and has been very good from long range. Borregales is 4 of 5 from 40 yards and beyond, including a long field goal of 55 yards.

Junior Lou Hedley is back to handle the punting and he is having another outstanding season. Hedley is averaging 44.8 yards per punt. Ten of his 40 punts have traveled more than 50 yards, and 16 of his tries have resulted in Miami’s opponents starting inside their own 20-yard line.

Miami has been conservative in the return game. They have attempted just 15 punt returns on 50 chances where they average 9.2 yards per return. They have attempted just 10 kickoff returns on 55 chances and are averaging just 17 yards per return.

The Osceola’s Keys to an FSU Win

  1. FSU must find success in the running game. The Seminoles have rushed for a combined 103 yards in their last two games but still have found themselves in one-score games deep into the fourth quarter. Finding success on the ground against Miami, which has had issues with tackling this season shouldn’t be as challenging as it was against Clemson and NC State. Of course, FSU needs success running the ball to open up opportunities in the passing game.
  2. Big play or plays from the defense or special teams. FSU needs a game-changing play from its special teams or its defense that either accounts for a score and setup an easy score.