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Seminoles deliver a statement win

After watching from home as his Seminoles lost 52-10 in Miami Gardens last season, Mike Norvell stood on the sidelines this Saturday in Doak Campbell as his defense got the final stops to beat the Hurricanes 31-28 — ending the four-game losing streak against Miami and earning the most important win of the season for his program.

“I’m so proud of our team, the coaches, everybody involved in the program,” Norvell started off his postgame press conference. “Everything that we do within our program is there to prepare you for a moment like that. To see the joy from our players in that locker room, to see the joy from our fans, what an incredible atmosphere. This is a special night for Florida State.” 

Florida State has been down on its luck in the past few years against rivals, and that is being generous. The Seminoles have not beaten Florida since 2017 and had not beaten Miami since the “Block at Hard Rock” in 2016. Saturday marked the first victory against a rival since the Jimbo Fisher era. 

“It’s big. It’s really big,” quarterback Jordan Travis said on the win. “They stomped us last year. That’s not a good feeling at all. This was a big game today for us, biggest game of this season, I believe. Just shows where we’re headed. The brotherhood we have, the commitment we have, all the little things we do, it’s really special. I’m so thankful for Coach Norvell, Coach (Kenny) Dillingham and the rest of the coaches. Once again, they keep us positive, they love us, they care for us. We always want to go out and get a win for them.”

Florida State came out blistering defensively against one of the hottest offenses in the country. Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was only 9 for 21 for 96 yards with two interceptions and a fumble at the half. The interceptions by Jammie Robinson and Omarion Cooper rose the total to 10 on the season. This was the sixth straight game that the defense has forced an interception. 

Jermaine Johnson had his best game as a Seminole posting, three sacks, five tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He got the honors of breaking the rock in the locker room. 

“I’m really proud of Jermaine,” defensive tackle Keir Thomas said. “We come to work every day and I watch how he approaches it, and he approaches it like a pro. We tell each other every day: Go make a play. If something’s going on with him, I lift him up and it’s vice versa.”

Miami looked woefully unprepared early with five penalties on Florida State’s first offensive drive. Miami ended with 14 penalties for 105 yards. 

The early advantage that the Seminoles gained was due to their elevated energy and controlled emotions. But once Florida State entered their almost predictable lull in offensive production, the Hurricanes slowly climbed back into the game and took the lead with nine minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. 

With what looked like another “Florida State collapse” brewing, the Seminoles instead displayed the greatest example of growth as a team yet this season. It wasn’t any established superstar that won the game for Florida State, instead it was a senior transfer wide receiver and special teams player. 

Ja’Khi Douglas has struggled for playing time this season but caught a 59-yard pass to push the Seminoles down the field and into scoring position. 

“I just kept saying, ‘Don’t drop it, don’t drop it, don’t drop it.’ And I almost dropped it,” Douglas said. “But I had to catch it. A big-time moment in a big game.”

Then just a few plays later Andrew Parchment, a senior transfer from Kansas, caught a pass from Jordan Travis on fourth-and-14 to extend the game and put the Seminoles right in front of the goal line for the eventual game-winning score.

It may have not been the wire-to-wire victory that it could have been given the circumstances, but it’s still Florida State’s most important win of the season — a statement win in front of a large crowd of recruits.

“I was a kid that was watching this game for many years,” Travis said. “It’s a big rivalry … But this is a big step for us. There have been a lot of games this year that we’ve fought back. Responded. The best thing about it is after the game, you don’t see anybody celebrating with themselves. Everyone is hugging each other. Celebrating with their brothers. It shows where we’re headed.”

Said Robinson: “I know everybody in the country was watching this game. We just proved what we’re all about here at Florida State. You had all the recruits and we’re recruiting them, trying to show them what we’re all about over here. That’s the main thing and everybody was watching it. We just came out and executed as a team.”

For all the times that this football team has fought back in a game just to come short, it deserved to have a reversal of fortune against its biggest rival. Norvell talks ad nauseum about responding to adversity, but never more has the fruits of that labor been more present than in the game against Miami on Saturday. 

With bowl eligibility still on the line for the Seminoles, they now face two road games against Boston College (Saturday at noon on ACC Network) and Florida. We’ll see how far the Seminoles can carry the momentum of this statement win.