If the Miami Hurricanes aren’t back, they’re doing a pretty nifty imitation.
In what had to be the smallest sellout crowd (12,806) to ever witness a University of Miami-Florida State football game, the Hurricanes — behind another fine performance by quarterback D’Eriq King — put their biggest whupping on the Seminoles in the past 44 years of the fierce rivalry with a 52-10 victory Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium.
It was the most points scored by either team in the history of the series, which began in 1951.
King completed 29 of 40 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns, and added eight carries for 65 yards — an 8.1-yards-per-carry average — in leading his Canes to 517 yards of total offense. He has yet to throw an interception in three games, and he was replaced by N’Kosi Perry within the first minute of the final quarter.
The offensive line came through big once again, allowing no sacks after giving up only three the previous two games.
UM’s defense contributed six sacks, 13 tackles for loss and three interceptions (Al Blades, Bubba Bolden and Jaelan Phillips). Two Canes and one Seminole were ejected — defensive end Phillips for two unsportsmanlike conducts (once for prancing down the field into the end zone while celebrating a diving interception); safety Gurvan Hall for targeting; and FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson for targeting.
FSU was held to 330 yards, only 105 in the first half.
Canes coach Manny Diaz was asked if he felt the gap between Miami and Florida State is as large as it seems based on Saturday’s game.
“It’s always difficult in one-off games to try to make statements,’’ Diaz said. “That’s certainly your job. We played a game one night. It went the way that it went. That’s for someone else to judge.’’
The only thing missing because of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, was UM’s usual capacity crowd to savor the thumping of the Seminoles, who fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2017 and only the second time since 1989.
Just how far the Canes have risen will be on display in two weeks when they travel to Clemson, the No. 1 team in the nation.
“We just told them in the locker room, ‘We’re going to face our most difficult opponent of the year, and that’s not Clemson,’ and that’s no disrespect to them,’’ UM coach Manny Diaz said. “It’s this off week.’’
The Canes (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) have begun the season with three consecutive victories for the first time since 2017. They have also stretched their winning streak against the Seminoles (0-2, 0-2) to four games, last accomplished during a five-game streak from 2000 through 2003. Note that in the 2003 campaign, Miami defeated FSU in the regular season and in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 2004.
Meanwhile, FSU’s misery is substantial, as the Seminoles have lost four of their past five games dating to last season. Former coach Willie Taggart was fired the day after UM’s victory last season. And current FSU coach Mike Norvell wasn’t even there for Saturday’s loss, as he was home isolating after announcing Sept. 19 that he had tested positive for the coronavirus. Tight ends coach Chris Thomsen served as the interim coach.
“First off, I want to congratulate coach Diaz and the Miami football team,’’ Norvell said. “They did an extraordinary job tonight, really dominated in all phases. Obviously disappointed for our football team, for our coaching staff, our players, for our fan base. That is definitely not the way that we wanted to play tonight.
“Obviously credit goes to Miami for what they did. This is something that completely falls on me and I have to do a better job of putting our guys in the best position to go out there and play a better brand of football.’’
UM took a 38-3 lead into halftime, fueled by two touchdowns by tailback Cam’Ron Harris, a 24-yard reception by tight end Brevin Jordan, a 40-yard reception by Dee Wiggins, a 2-yard rush by Donald Chaney Jr. and a 30-yard field goal by Jose Borregales.
FSU’s lone points in the first half came from Ryan Fitzgerald’s 26-yard field goal.
The Seminoles scored their only touchdown in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass from James Blackman to Camren McDonald.
UM’s second-half points came from freshman tailback Chaney and freshman wideout Michael Redding III, a 7-yard pass from Perry.
“I’m not going to lie, it felt amazing, just seeing everybody get hype and do what they do, what we always do when we score,’’ Chaney said. “It felt so good — so good— to have those [touchdown] rings on. It was fun to be able to feel what my teammates feel and what Cam always feels, so it was fun to share the moment with him.”
The Canes converted 11 of 16 third-down attempts and three of four fourth downs.
“I felt the key to the game was our possession downs, third down and fourth down, especially early in the game,’’ Diaz said. “We talk about being relentless on offense, but you got to stay on the field. When you look at 11-for-16 on third down, which means you didn’t make five of them, you go 3-of-4 on fourth downs. ...That keeps the offense on the field. That adds snaps to their defense. So, it may have looked a certain way, but those third-down plays, whether it was the line doing a great job blocking, D’Eriq making throws, some tough catches down the field, I really thought in the first half that was the key to our victory.”
Miami goes into the bye week before traveling to top-ranked Clemson for the Oct. 10 meeting. The Tigers (2-0, 1-0 ACC), who had off Saturday, won the 2018 national championship and finished second to LSU in last season’s title game.
Diaz said he hopes that “everyone makes great decisions’’ this week, likely in light of the pandemic. “You lose the structured routine of game week. We’ll give them a couple off days, because that’s what you have to do during a bye week. It’s so important that we give everyone the opportunity in that locker room to go play Clemson.’’