Monday, October 22, 2007

Beating rival Florida State gives Miami some late-season momentum

AP Sports Writer

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) - When he arrived at the office Sunday morning, Miami coach Randy Shannon was eager to watch the final few moments of the Hurricanes' comeback win over Florida State from the night before.

He wanted to see how one particular thing happened.

Not Darnell Jenkins' two nifty catches on the dramatic game-winning 83-yard drive. Not Kirby Freeman's pinpoint throw to Dedrick Epps for the go-ahead score with 1:15 left. Not Graig Cooper's three big carries on that march, or Teraz McCray's fumble-causing hit that led to Colin McCarthy's 27-yard touchdown return.

No, Shannon only wanted to see who dumped the water bucket over his head amid the celebration.

``Nobody would tell me,'' Shannon said.

Miami defensive linemen Courtney Harris and Calais Campbell may want to stay away from Shannon for a little while, then, since their postgame revelry was the only thing dousing the first-year coach's mood Sunday.

The Hurricanes' 37-29 victory over the rival Seminoles did more than snap a two-game Miami losing streak. It may have saved the season, since another defeat would have essentially eliminated the 'Canes (5-3, 2-2) from Atlantic Coast Conference contention - hopes there are slim to begin with anyway - and put Miami's chances of simply making a bowl game in jeopardy.

``Not too many people win at Florida State,'' Shannon said. ``If you win at Florida State, you take it and you wrap that one up and you put it in a vault because you don't get that many wins there.''

Most teams don't. Miami actually does.

The Hurricanes are 13-7 in Tallahassee, and this one was for the record books, since it ended a streak that dated back nearly a quarter-century.

On Oct. 13, 1984, the Seminoles (4-3, 1-3) lost at Doak Campbell Stadium to Auburn 42-41. Since then, Florida State was a staggering 102-0-1 when scoring 29 or more points at home.

That is, until Saturday, when a Miami team that had lost five straight on the road somehow pulled one out in stunning fashion.

``Maybe they're just starting to realize what we're saying,'' Shannon said. ``They can do it now.''

There were no shortage of Miami players being lauded in the tiny visiting locker room after the game. Freeman, McCray, Jenkins, Cooper and McCarthy all got deserved pats on the back.

But the biggest praise may have been directed toward someone who lost his starting job one day earlier, relegated to backup duty.

Francesco Zampogna - the sixth-year walk-on kicker who was the starter until this week - probably threw the biggest pass of Miami's season. His fake field-goal toss for a touchdown to DajLeon Farr in the third quarter gave Miami a 24-23 lead and, perhaps more importantly, a huge emotional lift at a time where the Seminoles seemed poised to pull away.

``First pass ever,'' Zampogna said.

It was a tricky play and a trickier call.

Miami had the ball on the Florida State 26 _ the exact spot on the same side of the field where the new starting kicker, Daren Daly, made a 44-yard field goal earlier. But Zampogna was summoned, Farr ran away from two defenders, caught the ball and scored easily.

``I was thinking to myself, 'I hope they don't catch on,''' Farr said. ``But they didn't.''

So now Miami heads into a bye week with some hope.

The break comes at a good time, since the Hurricanes could use a few days to heal - especially at quarterback. Kyle Wright hurt his left leg and Freeman was shaken up late in the game, although Shannon said he thinks both players will be ready when practice resumes Tuesday.

Home games await against North Carolina State (Nov. 3) and Virginia (Nov. 10), followed by road trips to nationally ranked Virginia Tech and Boston College to end the season.

``This was the breakthrough game that we needed,'' Campbell said. ``Now we've got momentum.''

Source:; Photo Credit: Miami University