Mike Norvell was in his first season as Florida State coach the last time the Seminoles played at Hard Rock Stadium.
He watched from his living room while dealing with COVID-19 as his rebuilding program suffered a 52-10 loss (the worst in Miami-FSU rivalry history) by what was then a team most experienced of the Hurricanes.
What a difference two years can make.
Saturday night – two years after FSU’s 42-point loss, Norvell had an in-person view as the Seminoles painstakingly managed a Miami rebuilding team under first-year coach Mario Cristobal en route to victory of 42 points (45-3) thrashing at Miami Gardens. It was FSU’s most lopsided win in Miami and second in series history.
FSU, which finished this 2020 season with a 3-6 record and went 5-7 last season, clinched bowl eligibility for the first time under Norvell while the Hurricanes were in serious danger of finishing with a record. losing.
“It was one of the hardest nights of my life,” Norvell said. “Watching on TV and seeing a team that was at the start. We were in such a strange and strange place because of outside circumstances. I wanted to be here with them more than anything, even for the experience, because thanks to her, you learn from each other and you have the opportunity to come back and continue to work, to believe and to formulate an understanding that you can overcome.
“It was a pretty terrible night, but it gave us the opportunity to have a night like this.”
At the time, Florida State clung to a top-10 recruiting class with the message of optimism that one day soon things would look up and they would be part of that process.
The Seminoles are seeing the fruits of that labor this season.
The Hurricanes are now the team in that position with a recruiting class of 2023 ranked No. 8 nationally by 247Sports.com and clinging to the belief that they will resurrect the program when they arrive in Coral Gables.
Miami’s rout of FSU two years ago was marked by its transfers of veterans at the time, such as quarterback D’Eriq King.
FSU is now the one with the right decision through the transfer portal, acquiring key contributors such as running back Trey Benson, who ran for two touchdowns on Saturday. And linebacker Tatum Bethune, a former Miami Central trader from UCF, finished with five tackles in his first game at Hard Rock Stadium.
But the Seminoles coaching staff has also developed the talent they’ve recruited or inherited since Norvell’s arrival in Tallahassee.
Their offensive line — a mix of veterans like sixth-year senior Dillan Gibbons and young players like redshirt sophomores Darius Washington and Robert Scott Jr. — is virtually the same as last year. The group allowed a sack against Miami and helped the Seminoles rush for 229 yards and a total of 454 total yards.
Jordan Travis, who threw just two passes against UM in 2020, threw three touchdowns this time around and became one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC.
Wide receiver Ontario Wilson, who caught Travis’ first touchdown on Saturday, has become a deep and dangerous threat.
Redshirt rookie Patrick Payton, a Miami Northwestern alum, provided most of the highlights (a sack, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup) on a defense that forced three costly Miami turnovers and a held the Hurricanes to 186 total yards.
“I like that in this team you look at guys who came in as newcomers, whether it was an immediate impact transfer or guys who came in those first two classes,” Norvell said. “We were so specific to what we were looking for. Yes, we wanted the biggest, strongest, fastest, but they had to be the right fit for the state of Florida and the guys who really loved the work process and cared about people, and that’s what you saw tonight – a team that cares about each other.”
This story was originally published November 6, 2022 12:50 a.m.