Miami Hurricanes running back Graig Cooper's touchdown run with 1:53 remaining meant that No. 18 Florida State found themselves trailing 38-34 in their Labor Day opening game with the Miami Hurricanes.
Following a drive where Florida State was able to advance the ball to the Miami two-yard line with 14 seconds remaining, three consecutive incompletions from Christian Ponder, the last coming on a ball that Jarmon Fortson nearly scooped in the end zone on the game's final play, sealed the Seminoles fate.
"That was our two-point play that we practice every practice and Jarmon (Fortson) was wide open," Ponder said. "I take full responsibility, the throw was a bit low and that's my fault."
Bobby Bowden said it was simply another typical Florida State-Miami game.
"They don't come easy," Bowden said. "They've got some pretty good players and we've got some pretty good players. They just made more plays than we did in the end."
Ponder put up 294 passing yards and two touchdowns completing 24-of-41 attempts. He also added a touchdown on the ground gaining 28 yards on eight attempts. The Seminoles ground game, which dominated the Hurricanes a season ago, was kept in check with only 110 yards on 30 attempts, 70 yards of which came in the fourth quarter.
The Seminoles also suffered defensive struggles. Hurricanes sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris amassed 386 passing yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-34 passing. He also added a rushing touchdown of his own. On the final offensive drive for the 'Canes, he came up huge connecting with Travis Benjamin for a 40-yard completion to set up Cooper's game-winning touchdown.
"Well, we needed to make some plays," Bowden said. "We had the chance to make some plays and we didn't. We had a jump ball in the corner we didn't get (on the final drive). We had the last (play) that we didn't get."
In a back and forth game between the 'Noles and 'Canes, Miami drew first blood on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Benjamin, who was being covered by Korey Mangum, less than three minutes into the game. Miami converted a fourth-and-short earlier in the drive to preserve the drive.
Florida State answered with less than five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, when Ponder connected with tight end Caz Piurowski on a wheel route from 10 yards out. The highlight of that drive was a 34-yard completion from Ponder to sophomore wide receiver Bert Reed.
The Seminoles took the lead with just under three minutes remaining in the first half when freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins nailed a field goal from 52 yards out.
Miami would strike quickly though with a 75-yard drive in two minutes capped by a touchdown run by Javarris James to take a 14-10 lead into the locker room.
The second half saw the teams trade the lead five times. Two touchdowns by the Seminoles offense, a nine-yard run by Ponder and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Ponder to sophomore Taiwan Easterling put the Seminoles up 23-14 just ten minutes into the second half. Miami would get three points back on a Matt Bosher 18-yard field goal to end the third quarter with the Seminoles on top 23-17.
Miami would quickly retake the lead in the final quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Jacory Harris.
Following a Florida State offensive possession that went three-and-out, Miami was quickly back on offense with good field position. The Seminoles defense would answer, Florida State freshman defensive back Greg Reid pressured Harris and forced an interception to Markus White who returned it 31 yards for the touchdown giving the Seminoles a 31-24 lead.
The 'Canes would again even it up with 7:14 remaining in the game when Harris connected with Cooper for a 24-yard touchdown capping a 10-play, 73 yard drive.
With the pressure on, Florida State took the lead with just over 4:11 remaining on a 45-yard field goal by Hopkins.
It wouldn't be enough though, as Harris engineered a final touchdown drive that the Seminoles were unable to answer. Miami (1-0) would win earning their second consecutive victory against the Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium.
Florida State (0-1) returns to action next weekend when they host Jacksonville State (0-1) at 6 p.m.
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