TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The running game has been an important factor in the Miami-Florida State series.
In the past 30 meetings between the Sunshine State rivals, the team with the most rushing yards has won 22 times. It will likely be a determining factor again on Saturday when the 13th-ranked Hurricanes visit the Seminoles.
Miami’s Mark Walton leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing yards per game, averaging 134.3. Florida State’s duo of Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers combined for 178 yards last week as the Seminoles got their first win at Wake Forest .
Walton, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound junior, has been somewhat limited due to an ankle injury that he suffered in the Sept. 23 win over Toledo. He was held to 51 rushing yards in last week’s win at Duke but did have four receptions for 79 yards.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Walton is as good as any back they will face this season.
“He’s consistent and doesn’t have many plays that go for negative yards,” Fisher said. “Last week he did as much damage out of the backfield catching the ball. Our defense is going to be challenged.”
The Seminoles (1-2, 1-1 ACC) will need more from their ground game in order to take the pressure off freshman quarterback James Blackman. Patrick, who is also a junior, rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown at Wake, but more than half of his yards came on a 69-yard carry in the first quarter.
Akers, who was touted as one of the nation’s top recruits last year, has been tentative at times and slow to see openings for big gains.
“Patrick is a big back, who runs hard, falls forward on contact, and Akers has quick feet and can run out of a tackle,” Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “We have to make sure that you are in your gap and fit all the responsibilities in their runs.”
Florida State has a seven-game winning streak over Miami (3-0, 1-0), but the last three meetings have been decided by a total of 10 points. The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 16 but was pushed back due to Hurricane Irma.
“Rivalry games are important. They’re better rivalries when there’s some winning and losing on both sides, and that hasn’t happened lately,” Miami coach Mark Richt said.
Some other things to know about this game:
NEEDING MOMENTUM: Florida State was ranked third in the preseason poll, but a season-ending knee injury to quarterback Deondre Francois and its first 0-2 start since 1989 made them tumble out of the rankings. The Seminoles were also reeling going into last year’s game at Miami, but the 20-19 win turned their season around and started a run where they won seven of their last eight.
FAST START FOR ROSIER: Miami quarterback Malik Rosier, who won a four-man battle for the spot in the preseason, leads the ACC in pass efficiency (167.0) along with throwing for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s also done a nice job of getting everyone involved in the passing game as six players have five receptions or more.
RECEIVERS ON DISPLAY: Florida State’s Auden Tate and Miami’s Braxton Berrios look to keep their touchdown streaks alive. Tate has caught a TD in the first three games, becoming the first FSU receiver to do that in four years. Berrios has a touchdown in four straight games dating back to last season, which is the school’s longest streak since 2012.
IN THE TRENCHES: Florida State’s offensive line continues to struggle as the Seminoles had 17 plays result in negative yards last week. It doesn’t get any easier with Miami tied for second nationally in tackles for loss (9.0 per game). The Hurricanes also have 10 sacks in their first three games.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The kickers since this rivalry has a history of being defined by them. Florida State’s Ricky Aguayo has made eight straight this season while Miami’s Michael Badgley, who had an extra point blocked last year that would have sent the game into overtime, is 4 of 5.
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