Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) celebrates after blocking a field goal during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Miami Gardens. The Seminoles defeated Miami 20-19. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Florida State Seminoles

Seminoles finally show up — in a big way

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

It won’t lead to a national championship. Barring a crazy turn of events, it likely won’t produce an ACC title.

But for the Florida State Seminoles, Saturday night’s 20-19 victory against the Miami Hurricanes was monumental in its own way.

Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois had just enough grit and toughness.

FSU’s much-maligned defense had just enough heart.

DeMarcus Walker had just enough length on his fingertips to block Michael Badgley’s extra-point attempt with 1:38 remaining, preserving FSU’s much-needed triumph.

Let’s be realistic. FSU (4-2) is not going to suddenly find a spark and reach the College Football Playoff. Two ACC defeats — getting blasted by Louisville and beaten at the buzzer by North Carolina — took care of those possibilities.

FSU was fighting to just stay semi-relevant. For one night, though, we got the Seminoles we were once promised. We got an offense that took advantage of opportunities — featuring a dynamic Dalvin Cook (27 carries, 150 yards) who looked every bit of a Heisman Trophy finalist — along with a snarling defense that flat took over.

It was FSU’s seventh straight victory against Miami (4-1), making Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher 7-0 against that the Hurricanes, and it was no doubt one of his most satisfying triumphs.

FSU’s defense — on its heels a week earlier against North Carolina — became a different group under embattled defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. The Seminoles limited Miami to 276 total yards. Big play after big play made the lockdown effort possible — and none of them were bigger than Tarvarus McFadden’s end-zone interception of a Brad Kaaya third-quarter pass when the Hurricanes led 13-3 and threatened to build an insurmountable advantage.

That was the moment when FSU came to life and took this game by the throat. The Hurricanes struggled to get anything going after that, and the Seminoles gradually assumed control.

For sheer inspiration, though, it was Francois who served as the poster child for FSU’s gutsy performance.

He was under siege, facing constant pressure. He was knocked down a dozen times, including one particularly brutal confrontation that gave him an injured shoulder. For a time, Sean Maguire took over at quarterback as Francois was receiving treatment in FSU’s sideline injury tent. There were moments when you wondered if Francois could finish the game.

He did.

He helped to finish off the Hurricanes.

Francois was 20 of 31 for 234 yards and two touchdowns, but his value couldn’t be quantified. He was a leader and an example-setter, refusing to give in, even when things weren’t going FSU’s way.
In the second half, FSU’s defense followed Francois’ lead, doing the dirty work that helped the Seminoles gain control.

What’s ahead?

There’s still an Oct. 29 visit by the Clemson Tigers, who are gaining confidence each week and might represent the ACC’s best chance at winning a national title. There’s the rivalry game against the Florida Gators, a post-Thanksgiving moment that could put the Seminoles at 10-2 or 9-3 (if they can avoid more bad outcomes).

After watching the Seminoles get overrun by Louisville, then do everything possible to lose the game against North Carolina, there was real concern. Who were these guys? Where were the Seminoles we championed in the preseason?

That team finally showed up Saturday night.

Too late? Maybe. FSU can’t get back the games against Louisville and North Carolina. They are long gone and part of this season’s ancient history.

But the Seminoles can play to their vast potential.

That might be a scary prospect for Clemson.

It certainly haunted the Hurricanes on Saturday night.

Seminoles finally show up — in a big way
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