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Jarren Williams Shines Against FSU

By Dave Holcomb
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This combination of elite offense and competent quarterback play is what the Miami fanbase has been waiting for all season.

For much of this decade, the Miami Hurricanes couldn’t buy a win against their hated rivals from Tallahassee. From 2010-16, Florida State tied the series record, defeating Miami seven years in a row. Some were in heartbreaking fashion like the 20-19 Seminoles win against the Hurricanes in 2016, but quite a few were by double digits as well (2010, 2012, 2013).

The narrative has changed, though, towards the end of the 2010’s. Entering the 2020’s, Miami will be on a three-game winning streak against Florida State thanks to its 27-10 victory in Tallahassee on Saturday.

This Hurricanes victory marks the first time since 2002-04 that Miami defeated Florida State three years in a row. Saturday was also the first occasion the Hurricanes won two straight contests at Doak Campbell Stadium since 2007 and 2009.

While Miami’s defense dominated, recording nine sacks Saturday, Manny Diaz’s decision to start freshman quarterback Jarren Williams is going to steal all the press, and rightfully so. Williams was terrific, posting 313 passing yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Williams averaged a healthy 8.5 yards per pass, his best of which came in the fourth quarter. Florida State pulled within a touchdown early in the second half, and after several possessions ended in punts for both teams, Williams found Dee Wiggins for a 56-yard touchdown on the first play on a drive towards the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Talk about a drive starter but more like a game ender. Florida State mustered up just 30 yards of offensive and threw an interception in the fourth quarter.

The decision from Florida State coach Willie Taggart to turn to graduate transfer quarterback Alex Hornibrook looks like an utter disaster. He was able to beat a weak Syracuse squad by double digits last Saturday, but running back Cam Akers powered Florida State to that victory with four touchdowns.

This week against Miami, Hornibrook threw for only 135 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He averaged 5.6 yards per pass. Not that sophomore James Blackman did much better, completing one pass for 13 yards and throwing an interception with his only other attempt.

But most impressively, the Hurricanes held Akers to only 66 rushing yards and 3.0 yards per carry. Including sacks, Florida State recorded just 31 yards on the ground with 41 attempts, averaging under 1.0 yard per rushing attempt.

That’s what happens when a team gives up nine sacks.

The combination of elite offense and competent quarterback play is what the Miami fanbase has been waiting for all season. As Hornibrook proved, things can change rapidly at quarterback in the ACC, but for at least a week, the Hurricanes can have confidence that Williams is the correct guy to have behind center moving forward. If he repeats this performance against Louisville and Duke, Miami can still win the ACC Coastal division.

The Coastal is largely still a mosh pit, but Virginia did create some separation for itself Saturday by beating North Carolina and becoming the first team in the division with four wins at 4-2. Miami improved to 3-3 with its win against Florida State.

North Carolina is also 3-3 and Pitt is 3-2, so it’s far from a two-team race, but if it does come down to Miami and Virginia, the Hurricanes hold the tiebreaker, and thus only trail by a game. Virginia is probably playing the best of anyone in the division at this point, but the Cavaliers still have a date with rival Virginia Tech, who they haven’t beaten in 16 years.

If Miami wins out, Virginia falls as it normally does to Virginia Tech and North Carolina along with Pitt lose at least another conference game, then Miami emerges from the ashes as the division winner.

As for Florida State, in addition to taking a turn for the worst in the rivalry against Miami, the Seminoles have lost three of four and sit below .500 at 4-5. More than likely, Florida State will have to win its next two games on the road against Boston College and at home versus Alcorn State to be bowl eligible because an away matchup with Florida looms in the season finale.

Maybe with the way the season started, Taggart should take some pride in the fact his program still has a shot to go bowling. However, to do that, one would have to admit how far Florida State has truly fallen since going 13-0 and winning the national championship in 2013.