TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For three straight years, Miami came oh so close to beating Florida State in the fourth quarter. Up until 6 seconds remained on Saturday, it looked like that familiar storyline would hold.
Then came Malik Rosier to Darrell Langham, writing another epic ending into a library full of them in this heated and storied rivalry.
After Florida State's James Blackman threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate to give the Seminoles the lead with 1:24 remaining, Rosier marched his Hurricanes 75 yards on nine plays to give Miami a 24-20 victory, breaking a seven-game losing streak in the series.
But before Miami could celebrate, it had to wait on an agonizing replay review after Langham’s knee touched down as he was crossing the goal line.
When the touchdown was upheld, a wild celebration ensued, not only on the Miami sideline, but in the corner of the opposite end zone, where a large contingent of Miami fans went crazy for a moment they have been waiting on since Jacory Harris was the quarterback back in 2009.
But there is more to that final sequence that makes it all the more incredible. The seldom-used Langham was in the game for just two plays: the game's final two.
"Coach always tells me to be big, use my body and get the ball," Langham said. "I was happy I came down with the ball. I’m happy I ended the streak."
Nobody who watched the first three quarters could have envisioned an ending like this. For most of Saturday's outing, both teams struggled to complete passes, convert on third down and sustain drives. Miami didn’t even cross midfield until the second half. But the fourth quarter will rightly take its spot among the instant classics in the long rivalry.
When it began, Miami held a 10-3 lead. But Blackman has proved to be a gamer with the contest on the line, and delivered a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Izzo to tie it at 10. The Seminoles would take a 13-10 lead on their next drive.
Miami answered, with Rosier throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Berrios to forge back ahead.
Then Florida State took the lead on the Blackman-to-Tate score.
Rosier huddled up his teammates and simply told them: "They gave us a minute, 24 seconds. That’s plenty of time for us to go score." Then he turned to the offensive linemen: "Listen, our receivers are killing them on routes. If you guys give me enough time, I promise you we’ll go down the field and score."
Miami faced two crucial third-and-10 situations on that final drive. On both, Rosier found Berrios, who ended with a game-high eight catches, 90 yards and two touchdowns. Following Berrios' second third-down conversion, Miami lined up for a passing play it works on every week. With running back Mark Walton and receiver Ahmmon Richards banged up, Miami called upon Langham -- who had three career receptions going into the game.
"Darrell made a great play," Rosier said. "I just saw a 6-[foot]-6 receiver out there in open space, so I just said give him a ball. He can catch, go make a play, and that’s what he did."
The lead changed hands four times in the final quarter, with nerves fraying as both sides hoped for the win. Let’s remember how big this was for Miami: The Hurricanes entered 3-0 and the favorite; Florida State entered battered at 1-2. This was as good a time as any to end Miami's long losing streak and prove this team had turned a corner and could play for more than just an eight- or nine-win season.
The Hurricanes absolutely had to have this game to answer all those questions about whether Miami had turned a corner and was back as a program. The Canes' No. 13 ranking is sure to rise after this game, and there are plenty of difficult games remaining on the schedule. Perhaps the College Football Playoff is among the possibilities; it’s tough to count Miami out after a victory like this.
"It’s great for morale, it’s great for momentum, it’s great for recruiting," Miami coach Mark Richt said. "We want to get back to where when we hook up with anybody, people know that we’ve got a chance to be one of the better teams in the country. We’re working toward that. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there."
Before anybody talks about the playoff, the Canes are going to savor this win. Because Miami needed the victory not only for its season, but to finally break an ignominious streak it never wants to be on again.