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September 4, 2006

Cismesia kick lifts Florida State past Miami

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MIAMI - Every one of the 71,481 in attendance at the Orange Bowl and millions of others watching on TV probably expected the kick to sail wide one way or another.

And somewhere in the back of Florida State kicker Gary Cismesia's mind he might have, too.

History has repeated itself more often than a nagging wife where the Seminoles' clutch place kicking is concerned - especially against Miami and particularly in the Orange Bowl.

So often in the past, the Seminoles attempted potential game-winning or game-tying field goals against the down-state rival Hurricanes and were so routinely disappointed that the failures were eventually accompanied by Roman numerals.

Wide Right I in 1991.

Wide Right II in 1992.

Wide Right III in 2000.

Wide Left I in 2002.

And so with Florida State and Miami locked in a 10-10 tie with just more than eight minutes remaining on Monday night, Cismesia - who twice failed to connect in overtime of last season's triple-overtime Orange Bowl loss to Penn State - lined up for one of the rare scoring opportunities in this defensive struggle.

Call it Right Down the Middle I.

"Without a doubt, I knew he would make it. He did one of these things," Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford said, pointing his hand toward an imaginary goal post. "That's the new thing and he puts it through the uprights. It's money."

Cismesia, who reportedly had struggled with his accuracy in scrimmages during two-a-days, converted a 37-yard field goal that staked the No. 11 Seminoles to an early 3-0 lead. But even that conversion drew jeers as a voice in the Orange Bowl press box scoffed: "It's easy in the first quarter."

Cismesia didn't hear that quip, and he said he didn't hear anything else when he lined up for the winning kick.

"I didn't hear a thing," Cismesia said. "When I put on my helmet and chin strap somebody could yell in my face and I wouldn't hear them."

After Cismesia's first field goal staked the Seminoles to their early lead, Miami came back and took a 10-3 halftime advantage on a 4-yard touchdown run by Charlie Jones and a 20-yard Jon Peattie field goal.

Florida State floundered most of the game against Miami's relentless defense, but Weatherford completed two long passes on third-and-10 on a late third quarter drive that ended with fullback Joe Surratt's 1-yard touchdown blast on the first play of the fourth quarter.

After Florida State forced a Miami punt, Weatherford completed four passes to put the Seminoles in range for Cismesia's second field goal.

"That was huge for our university," Weatherford said. "We've had the wide rights and the wide lefts and Gary struggled at the end of last year. But he showed a lot to come out with confidence and get it done."

The Florida State defense, which allowed Miami only 17 total yards in the second half, made sure the Hurricanes were done. FSU stopped the Hurricanes cold on three consecutive series, the last ending with a Ray Garvin interception.

Florida State's 13-10 victory, the second three-point triumph they've managed in consecutive defensive struggles with the Hurricanes, provided the pole position in the ACC race. It also signaled they may once again be a factor in the national championship picture, a status they haven't had since 2000.

The ACC grind still remains, including a tough game with Clemson in two weeks, and there is a regular-season finale against Florida. But Florida State looks like a team capable of challenging for the national championship.

The defense is solid, Weatherford is a proven quarterback and the offensive line, though struggling in run blocking, protected him when it was most necessary.

And, of course, the Seminoles have a clutch field goal kicker, too.

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