The way they did in 1973.
Forty-four years ago, Miami went into its game against Florida State on a seven-game losing streak, too. Those two streaks happen to be tied for the longest in series history. But back then, the game between the two schools had more regional appeal and had not quite manifested into the rivalry it is today.
The real animosity was saved for one opponent both Miami and Florida State disliked equally: Florida. Believe it or not, the focus on the losing streak was relatively nonexistent as Miami prepared for Florida State in 1973.
“I didn’t know it had been that long until you told me,” former Miami receiver Steve MarcAntonio said.
That is not meant to diminish how badly Miami players wanted to win. “It was a heated game for us,” MarcAntonio said.
But there were plenty of other heated games, especially that season. Miami faced a brutal schedule, opening against No. 6 Texas, then Florida State and then No. 6 Oklahoma before finishing with No. 2 Alabama, Florida and No. 5 Notre Dame.
What MarcAntonio and teammate Mike Archer remember about the Florida State game is how it came down to the wire, with Woody Thompson rushing for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter to win 14-10.
The Orlando Sentinel reported it this way on Sept. 29, 1973:
Trailing 10-7 and seemingly caught in a maze of mistakes that are reminiscent of the past seven Seminole victories in succession, Miami awoke with a blazing fury, ignited by a successful fourth-and-one gamble at its own 37.
For practical purposes, that was the ball game.
“It was a typical Miami-Florida State game,” Archer said. “There was a lot of hype, but it’s not like it is now. I remember there was a respect factor between Miami and Florida State that I think is still there. We always respected them and I think they respected us except for those three hours that we played and then it was all hands on deck.”
It was not until Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger arrived at their respective schools that Florida State-Miami became appointment television, growing the rivalry far beyond the results on the field. Depending on who won or lost, championships would eventually be on the line.
“In 1973, Florida State and Miami, they were just football programs,” said Archer, now an assistant with Toronto in the Canadian Football League. “They were not like they are now. I distinctly remember my last Miami-Florida State game in 1983. We had to win to go to the Orange Bowl to play for the national championship. It was a dogfight. It came down to a field goal we kicked with three seconds to go by Jeff Davis or we don’t go to the OB and win the first national championship. That I think is when the two programs really started to take off.”
Miami has won five national championships while Florida State has won three, giving the Hurricanes bragging rights in that sense. But over the past seven years, Florida State has exerted itself as the most dominant team in the state, becoming a roadblock Miami must get past if the Hurricanes want to firmly make the case they are on the road "back."
The losses the past several years have been particularly difficult:
Three years ago in Miami, the Hurricanes held a late fourth-quarter lead before Dalvin Cook ran for the winning score.
Two years ago in Tallahassee, Miami had the ball with a chance for a go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t convert.
Last year, Miami appeared on the verge of sending the game into overtime, until Demarcus Walker blocked Michael Badgley’s extra point attempt to give Florida State the 20-19 win.
“That loss stuck with me every game after that and in the offseason,” Miami linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “That was one game we had to win, and we didn’t so that really stung us.”
Just like 1973, the game this year is in Tallahassee, against a Florida State team that has gotten off to a shaky start. Quarterman said the streak has been mentioned only once, and only to say it was time to end it.
“It’s one of those things where what’s understood doesn’t have to be explained,” Quarterman said. “It doesn’t matter who looks like who’s having the best or worst season. This Saturday is going to be a fight no matter what. If we focus on the preparations and don’t let the outside world dictate what the game is going to be, that’s what we have to rely on.”
What also is understood: a loss and Miami will be left with many more questions to answer. As well as the longest losing streak in the series’ 62-year history.