Finally, FSU celebrates Miami's botched field goal
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The nightmare was recurring one last time for David Castillo, but the Florida State center refused to acknowledge it. Sometimes denial is your friend.
As Miami moved steadily downfield in the closing minutes, poised to make the sixth-year senior the first college football player ever to lose to the same team seven times, Castillo stubbornly -- perhaps prayerfully -- predicted a Seminoles victory.
"You know what?" he said to fellow offensive lineman Matt Meinrod on the bench. "The defense is going to stop them, they're going to block the field goal and we're going to get the ball back and run out the clock."
Tell the truth, David.
"It kind of creeps into your mind a little bit -- here we go again," Castillo admitted. "But I had confidence."
This was belief without evidence, otherwise known as faith. Blind, desperate faith.
The defense did its job, halting the Hurricanes advance at the FSU 2 and eventually pushing them back to the 10 by fourth down. And as Miami lined up for a cinch 27-yard field goal that would bring on overtime in a butt-ugly 10-7 ballgame, Castillo's faith was rewarded.
In a final flourish of serial special-teams ineptitude, low snap met botched hold. The ball squirted through the hands of holder Brian Monroe, boinked off his knee and created a dogpile at the 16. FSU ball.
On the sideline, running back Lorenzo Booker was stunned at the sudden and spectacularly ironic turn of events.
"I was like, 'Did that just happen?'" Booker said. "That's supposed to happen to us."
From there, the Seminoles fulfilled the final part of the Castillo prophecy by grinding the final 2:16 off the clock.
At the gun Doak Campbell Stadium went berserk, with Florida State players leaping into the student section. And somewhere, Xavier Beitia exhaled. Dan Mowrey smiled. Gerry Thomas could sleep easily.
They were the garnet-and-gold goats who pushed, pulled and yanked clutch field goals against the 'Canes through the years. They were the reason Miami fans were wandering the FSU campus before the game in orange T-shirts that read, "Wide right, wide left -- a Tallahassee tradition."
For once, it was the 'Canes' kicking game that took the blame. Jon Peattie missed two field goals, and then the third one never got off the ground.
"So odd, isn't it?" said Bobby Bowden, who might have another national title or two if not for his field-goal follies. "Did they hit any tonight?"
No, coach. (The final score was 10-7. Your guys had the 10.)
Missed two, coach. (You were there, right?)
"Missed two?" Bowden mused. "Sounds like Florida State."
After six straight losses to the Hurricanes, the old man was free to indulge in a little postgame levity. He'd just stolen a win against a top 10 team despite some of the worst quarterbacking anyone can remember in Tallahassee -- yes, even including the Chris Rix Era.
If this game proved one thing, it's this: the rivalry that brought us Ken Dorsey, Gino Torretta, Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar, Chris Weinke, Charlie Ward, Danny Kanell and Peter Tom Willis is a long way removed from its quarterback heyday.
Drew Weatherford vs. Kyle Wright set this rivalry back to the pre-Bowden/pre-Schnellenberger days.
Redshirt freshman Weatherford was 7-for-24 for 67 yards with an interception -- and he was the winning QB! He didn't complete a pass beyond the line of scrimmage until late in the first half -- and that one went for five yards. He didn't complete a pass down the field until late in the third. He eventually was pulled for fellow redshirt frosh Xavier Lee in the fourth quarter, even though Lee missed significant August playing time with an injury.
"We got so desperate at the end, we decided to throw (Lee) in there," Bowden said.
Bowden's assessment of Weatherford: "He really struggled tonight. He was struggling, boy."
Nobody disagreed. Not even Weatherford, who was not upset to see Lee take his place.
"I was hoping he was going to go out there and make a few more plays than I did," Weatherford said. "I wasn't doing too good out there."
Lee didn't do any better, calling the wrong formation for a gadget play and completing 1-of-2 passes for seven yards.
Wright was miles better by comparison, completing 16-of-28 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown. He showcased a spectacular arm while making a variety of throws, spurring Bowden to proclaim, "He's gonna be a great one."
But Wright still has a lot to learn, often taking crippling sacks under relentless pressure from the Florida State pass rush. (He was sacked nine times on the night.) That was the one area where Weatherford outplayed Wright, throwing the ball away on occasion to avoid sacks.
Quarterback play has been the big loser in the television-driven decision to move this ACC battle from October to Labor Day.
Last year Brock Berlin and Chris Rix were largely helpless against defenses that looked well ahead of the offenses -- and they were seniors. These guys, rookie starters matched against fast and furious defenders, had almost no chance.
The result was hyperconservative gameplans from two formerly freewheeling programs. At times this series was Switzer vs. Osborne, without the swashbuckling option play. Monday night was Bo vs. Woody, without the frigid November weather.
At least Miami eventually came out of its shell and threw the ball with greater verve and daring. Florida State kept it wrapped up tight after taking a 10-0 lead, holding on and hoping.
And in the end, that hope -- and the David Castillo prophecy -- was rewarded. Just when it looked like Miami would kick Florida State in the gut one more time, the kick never got off the ground.
Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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