Saturday, September 7, 2013
Instant analysis: Miami 21, Florida 16
By David M. Hale
Miami and Florida might not play each other again anytime soon, but for the Hurricanes, the rivalry couldn't have ended on a better note. Stephen Morris threw two touchdown passes, Florida coughed up the football five times, and in spite of an ugly offensive performance, Miami managed a 21-16 win that clearly puts the Hurricanes back into the national spotlight.
It was over when: Tyriq McCord buried Florida QB Jeff Driskel at the Florida 17-yard line, forcing a fumble that set up Miami's final touchdown. Driskel had three turnovers in the game, but none loomed larger than the final fumble, when the Gators had a chance to drive down the field to take the lead. Miami's offense struggled mightily in the second half, but McCord's sack and forced fumble -- he recovered it too -- changed the momentum at the most crucial point in the game. Florida responded with a touchdown, but too much time had run off the clock for any real shot at a comeback.
Game ball goes to: Miami's defensive front. This wasn't a pretty game on virtually any level, but if one group stood out, it's the big guys up front for the Hurricanes. Miami finished last in the ACC in rushing yards allowed per game last season, but the unit came up big Saturday. Florida averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, Driskel was under near-constant pressure, and McCord's forced fumble was the key to securing the win.
Stat of the game: Florida dominated in so many facets of the game, but none of it was enough to overcome five turnovers, four of which came in Miami territory, three of which came in the red zone and one of which was recovered by the Hurricanes at Florida's 10-yard line to effectively seal the game. Florida ran 39 plays in Miami territory, nearly doubled Miami's offensive output and held the ball nearly twice as long as the Hurricanes -- but it was all for naught because the Gators couldn't hold on to the football.
Unsung hero: It'll get overlooked because of the loss, but Florida's defense was exceptional. Miami managed just 212 yards of offense, Morris completed fewer than half his passes, and after a strong first quarter, Duke Johnson essentially disappeared from the offense until his late touchdown run. On most days, that would have been more than enough for Florida to win. Instead, the offense managed to undermine every opportunity the defense provided.
What it means for Florida: In spite of last year's Sugar Bowl appearance, questions remained about whether the Gators' offense could play at a high level. Those questions will get louder now. Driskel didn't play well, with two crucial red zone interceptions, and the ground game couldn't get going against a defensive front Florida was supposed to dominate. The tests for Driskel and the Gators will only get bigger in SEC play, which makes what Miami was able to do Saturday an even bigger concern for Will Muschamp.
What it means for Miami: The offensive performance was ugly enough to undercut some of the "Miami is back" talk, but a win is a win and the Hurricanes are now clearly a player in the national scene for the first time in years. The rivalry between Miami and Florida might be over for the foreseeable future, but the win for the Hurricanes certainly ignites the enthusiasm surrounding the program and could set up another huge rivalry game against Florida State in November.