Florida State blasts Miami, but do Noles score enough style points?

Joe Flacco (USATSI)
Jameis Winston rallies from two early turnovers for another big game. (USATSI)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A funny thing was happening to Florida State on the way to the ACC title, the Heisman and a national championship berth.

Miami had arrived.

The plucky Hurricanes, who had rallied from three double-digit deficits this season, weren't shying away from equally undefeated FSU. Las Vegas and a nationwide audience may have thought otherwise.

While it will go down as a 41-14 win for No. 3 Florida State, there was plenty of concern at halftime. No. 7 Miami had intercepted Heisman candidate Jameis Winston twice, converting both into touchdowns. In the first 30 minutes the Hurricanes may have at least inflicted enough damage to the Noles' championship hopes to forge another twist in this rivalry.

Translated, did the three-touchdown favorites just push one Wide Left?

The game that wasn't supposed to be much of a game turned into the anticipated blowout. But it wasn't without concern.

These are the days when style points count as much as final results. Considering the spread, the Noles were playing Las Vegas as much as Miami. The Noles needed a blowout -- badly. The Canes are most likely the last ranked team FSU will play until a possible ACC championship game.

Florida State led only 21-14 at halftime before Winston completed his first seven passes of the second half in leading two scoring drives.

The Noles won comfortably, but did they win convincingly? That means a lot with No. 2 Oregon playing at Stanford on Thursday. With Las Vegas and the Canes out of the way for the moment, the Noles hope to leapfrog the idle Ducks in the BCS standings.

The 21-14 halftime deficit could have been different the Canes. Franchise tailback Duke Johnson seemingly broke free from a tackle running around right end in the second quarter. He reversed field and had blocking set up for an 80-yard touchdown run, but officials had blown the play dead. They ruled Johnson's forward progress had been stopped.

Miami served notice early it wasn't going to be blown out of Doak, but its first drive (50 yards) went unfulfilled when Matt Goudis missed on a 40-yard field goal try that missed wide left.

After Winston's first INT -- only his fifth this season -- Miami converted on a beautifully thrown Stephen Morris 33-yard scoring pass down the right sideline to Allen Hurns.

But that only exposed perhaps Winston's best quality: His ability to shake off adversity. His 6-yard scramble on third down at the beginning of the second quarter kept alive a drive that resulted in a go-ahead TD by James Wilder Jr. During one stretch, FSU converted 9 of 10 third downs.

The signature play of the first half, perhaps the game, emerged with five minutes left in the half. Winston floated a screen pass to Devonta Freeman -- as perfectly executed as a screen play can get. Left guard Josue Matias and center Bryan Stork got out in front as blockers. Freeman went down the left sideline 48 yards virtually untouched to make the score 21-7.

Winston started the third quarter completing those seven consecutive passes to six different receivers. Touchdown runs by Wilder and Freeman -- their second each -- made the score 35-14, effectively ending the contest.

 
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