3:30 PM ET, October 20, 2007
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- It was the biggest pass of Miami quarterback Kirby Freeman's life and he never saw it.
There he was, unable to breathe, Florida State linebacker Dekoda Watson standing over him. Freeman's left hand shook uncontrollably. He tried to get up, not once, but twice, only to roll on his back both times, still not sure of where his pass landed.
The silence should have told him the story.
Dedrick Epps caught the ball for the go-ahead touchdown, sending 82,000-plus fans at Doak Campbell Stadium into instant depression, and the Miami Hurricanes skipped out 75 seconds later with a 37-29 win over archrival Florida State.
It was Miami's first fourth-quarter comeback since the 2004 season. And it was engineered by a quarterback who was a dismal 1-for-8 with two interceptions before pulling off a most improbable victory.
"My team said, 'We're going to give you one more shot," Freeman said. "And thank God for one more shot."
This was the first time since 1977 that neither team came into this rivalry game ranked, but it turned out to be another Miami-Florida State classic.
As with so many others before, the 'Canes got a much-needed victory.
A loss and the Hurricanes' hopes would have vanished into the Tallahassee night. They would have been 4-4, 1-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, losers of three straight overall, losers of six straight on the road for the first time since the late 1970s, and in serious jeopardy of missing a bowl.
Funny how 31 seconds made all that go away.
Miami scored two touchdowns in a 20-second span of the first quarter, when starting quarterback Kyle Wright scored from a yard out, and after a Florida State fumble -- one of nine turnovers in the game -- Graig Cooper scored on a 2-yard run for a 14-3 lead.
Then in the fourth, Freeman's touchdown pass to Epps was followed 11 seconds later by Colin McCarthy picking up Florida State quarterback Xavier Lee's fumble and rumbling 27 yards for the clinching score.
Take away those 27 Miami points in 31 seconds, and this was a rout.
But five Florida State turnovers doomed those plans.
"You play good enough to win," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said, "but you made enough mistakes to lose."
Freeman wasn't exactly shying away from mistakes, either.
Wright left with injuries to his left knee and ankle in the second quarter -- he said he heard a pop, but wasn't sure on the severity after the game -- and couldn't return. So Freeman, who was the starter to open the season but was back in the reserve role by Week 3, took over.
"I can't go," Wright told him.
"Well, let's go to work," Freeman responded.
But he was simply awful at first, with two interceptions on telegraphed throws, and he and Shawnbrey McNeal teamed to fumble the ball away on a handoff early in the fourth quarter.
With 2:45 left, Freeman got the ball back, crowd roaring, knowing the game -- and whatever's left of the season -- was on the line.
"I told him he had to calm down out there," Shannon said.
Added Miami athletic director Paul Dee: "I was having a conversation with the beyond."
Freeman got the ball at the Miami 17, shotgun formation, and threw a perfect pass to a leaping Darnell Jenkins for a 16-yard gain. He exhaled, and was flawless the rest of the way.
He also got a lot of help from Cooper ran for 31 yards on the drive.
On second-and-8, Freeman threw another strike to Jenkins, this one for 21 yards. The very next snap was the pass to Epps, the one he never saw, the one he'll never forget.
That is, if he ever remembers it.
"I got cracked really hard," Freeman said. "I don't know who it was, but when I see it on film, I'm going to have to call Drew Weatherford and say, 'Hey, make sure you take care of that, because that's unnecessary."
The Miami fans packed into one corner of the stadium chanted his name when he trotted off the field amid the postgame celebration. They chanted "Ran-dy Shan-non!" long into the night, too. There won't be a national title for the Hurricanes this season, and even the ACC title remains a longshot. But this one gave Miami what it needed most -- hope.
"Every season, we write goals at the beginning of the year," offensive lineman Derrick Morse said. "And I'm pretty sure, for everybody on this team, beating Florida State was No. 1."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-14||5-16|
|4th Down Conversions||2-3||0-1|
|FG||08:44||Gary Cismesia 23 Yd |
Drive: 13 plays, 69 yds, 5:18
|TD||05:08||Kyle Wright 1 Yd Run (Daren Daly Kick) |
Drive: 7 plays, 67 yds, 3:36
|TD||04:48||Graig Cooper 2 Yd Run (Daren Daly Kick) |
Drive: 1 plays, 17 yds, :13
|TD||00:05||Xavier Lee 6 Yd Run (Gary Cismesia Kick) |
Drive: 10 plays, 70 yds, 4:38
|TD||13:07||Toddrick Verdell 45 Yd Interception Return (Gary Cismesia Kick)||14||17|
|FG||04:43||Daren Daly 44 Yd |
Drive: 7 plays, 14 yds, 2:14
|FG||00:15||Gary Cismesia 31 Yd |
Drive: 6 plays, 20 yds, 1:06
|FG||14:23||Gary Cismesia 33 Yd |
Drive: 6 plays, 65 yds, :37
|TD||06:23||Dajleon Farr 26 Yd Pass From Francesco Zampogna (Daren Daly Kick) |
Drive: 8 plays, 87 yds, 3:09
|FG||02:49||Gary Cismesia 45 Yd |
Drive: 7 plays, 12 yds, 3:21
|FG||14:11||Gary Cismesia 45 Yd |
Drive: 4 plays, 4 yds, 1:07
|TD||01:15||Dedrick Epps 13 Yd Pass From Kirby Freeman (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed) |
Drive: 7 plays, 83 yds, 1:30
|TD||01:04||Colin Mccarthy 27 Yd Fumble Return (Daren Daly Kick)||37||29|