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Florida State's Defense Delivers in Second Half to Lead Comeback Against Miami

Charles Kelly

Charles Kelly

The feeling for Florida State’s defense was familiar on Saturday night in Sun Life Stadium. The Seminoles trailed 23-10, and the defense did not force a punt through the first two quarters. The Hurricanes were rolling on offense in the first half, averaging 7.8 yards per play and entered the intermission with 319 total yards.

But once again, Florida State and coordinator Charles Kelly found the right answers at halftime.

The Seminoles held Miami to just 4.5 yards per play in the second half and limited the Hurricanes to just three points.

The strong defensive effort in the second half was enough for Florida State to extend its overall winning streak to 26 games and five in a row in the series against its in-state rival.

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Safety Jalen Ramsey was the best player on the field Saturday night, as he recorded three tackles (one for a loss), one forced fumble, four pass breakups and the game-clinching interception.

The strong play of the defense in the second half against Miami wasn’t a surprise to anyone who has watched Florida State play this year.

The Seminoles allowed 24 points in the first half against NC State and trailed 24-21 at halftime. However, the defense limited the Wolfpack to just 17 second-half points, which allowed quarterback Jameis Winston and the offense to score 35 points over the final two quarters in a 56-41 victory.

Against Notre Dame, Florida State allowed the Irish to score on a seven-play, 83-yard drive in the third quarter. But after that drive, the Seminoles held the Fighting Irish to just three points over their final four drives, including a late goal-line stand to clinch the victory.

And on a Thursday night in Louisville, Florida State’s defense allowed only one drive of more than 27 yards in the second half and forced four second-half punts by the Cardinals. That was more than enough to lift the Seminoles to a 42-31 victory.

Sure, Florida State’s defense isn’t as dominant as it was last year. The Seminoles are holding ACC opponents to 5.4 yards per play (an increase from 4.0 last year) and are giving up 22.8 points per game (a 10-point increase from a 12.1 mark in 2013).

Injuries, inexperience and the coordinator change have all factored into the drop-off on defense for coach Jimbo Fisher. And let’s also not overlook the fact the Seminoles’ offense has surrendered 22 turnovers this year, which has placed the defense in a few difficult situations.

However, this group has stepped up with the game on the line. College football is all about surviving and advancing each week. Wins aren’t necessarily a beauty contest, and the Seminoles continue to find ways to stay unbeaten.

Florida State’s defense won’t become dominant overnight, but Kelly and Fisher have to be encouraged this unit has stepped up when called upon in the second half.

And as long as the Seminoles keep winning, the team’s youth will have more time to develop, especially with a month to prepare before the first playoff game.

It’s pretty clear Florida State won’t be as dominant this year on defense as they were in 2013. But this unit is still capable of getting stops when it matters in 2014, which is more than enough for the Seminoles to have a shot at a repeat title appearance in January.