Miami head coach Mark Richt hopes to end the Hurricanes’ losing streak to FSU. He understands that containing Seminoles quarterback Deondre Francois will be difficult, yet necessary in order to accomplish that task.
Unbeaten and largely untested, Miami is preparing to face Florida State on Saturday night at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. And first-year head coach Mark Richt knows that if the Hurricanes are going to break their six-game losing streak to the Seminoles, his defense must play its finest game of the season.
Stopping ‘Noles running back Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 222 yards and three touchdowns (including a game-winning 23-yarder in the fourth quarter) in last year’s close win over the ‘Canes, is challenging enough. The beastly running back has amassed 407 rushing yards and five touchdowns, along with 168 receiving yards, in his last two games against South Florida and North Carolina. Despite the team’s defensive woes, Cook has heated up at the right time for FSU.
Yet the star running back isn’t the Hurricanes’ biggest concern in this ACC clash.
Seminoles redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois threw for 372 yards and had a game-tying touchdown run with less than 30 seconds left in last week’s home loss to UNC. He was a big reason why the ‘Noles were even able to rally from their 21-point deficit and nearly escape with a win after falling behind big early. His play certainly has not gone unnoticed by Richt.
At his Tuesday press conference, Richt was asked about the challenges a defense faces when trying to contain Francois.
“Oh, gosh. Well, [he’s] a great athlete who can pass the ball well,” Richt explained. “I’ve seen him throw some balls that were super impressive on the run and from the pocket. Quick-gain screens, QB run stuff, and then just creating on his own when nothing’s there in the pass game.
“That extra ability to have a defense defend everything just right in the passing game, and then there he goes. First down. Those are the toughest guys to defend, whether they are a freshman or not.”
Francois, whose only major struggles this year came along with the rest of his teammates at Louisville, will be the toughest test yet for a revamped ‘Canes defense.
Richt brought in Manny Diaz as his defensive coordinator when he arrived in Coral Gables, and the 3-4 scheme that Diaz installed has, thus far, paid dividends. It’s a playmaking unit, one that last week returned two fumbles for touchdowns that helped give the ‘Canes control of the game in a win against Georgia Tech. It’s also a defense featuring a lot of sophomores and freshmen that was among the national leaders in scoring defense, sacks and tackles for loss heading into the game against the Yellow Jackets. However, it has yet to face a player with the skill set of Francois.
If the ‘Canes are going to end their skid against FSU, they are going to have to hold Cook in check. However, the most important player on the field for the ‘Noles will still be Francois, whose dual-threat ability will be a primary focus for Richt and his staff as they look for a win that will definitively put the ‘Canes back on the national stage.