TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois has already won two starts on Miami’s home field.
That’s one more than Miami’s starter has.
It’s a statistical oddity, but it’s true - Francois is 2-0 as a starting quarterback for Florida State at Hard Rock Stadium, while Miami’s N’Kosi Perry made his debut as the Hurricanes’ starter in a home triumph last week over North Carolina. And those two players will certainly be the centers of attention Saturday when the Seminoles (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit the 17th-ranked Hurricanes (4-1, 1-0).
Francois hasn’t always played his best football in Miami. But he has been clutch in the second half in a pair of 2016 comeback wins - against Miami in October and then a few months later in the Orange Bowl against Michigan. He rallied Florida State from a 13-3 halftime deficit against the Hurricanes, and a blocked extra-point attempt helped secure the Seminoles’ 20-19 win. And Francois had a touchdown pass to Nyqwan Murray with 36 seconds left to help defeat the Wolverines 33-32.
For a redshirt freshman quarterback, they were composed performances. When asked about the win over Miami two years ago, Francois recalled a hard-fought win and DeMarcus Walker’s blocked extra-point attempt, the latest special-teams twist in the rivalry and a moment that quickly became known as the “Block at the Rock.”
“Very physical game, it was a very fun game,” Francois said. “I remember Demarcus Walker blocked the (kick). That’s the game you want to make your name off of.”
Francois made a name for himself as his toughness was on display that night. He left the game in the first half after a jarring hit but returned to throw third-quarter touchdown passes to Kermit Whitfield and Dalvin Cook.
It’s also a game where Perry could make a name for himself. Perry has appeared in three games this season, two as a backup. He’s completed 67 percent of his passes (34 of 51) for 442 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
In each of the last 10 meetings, there’s been some clear trends showing specifically what aspects of quarterback play could play the biggest role in what becomes the outcome.
And it comes down to accuracy - one of the reasons why Perry supplanted Malik Rosier as Miami’s starter.
The team with the starting quarterback that has the better completion percentage is 10-0 in the last 10 Miami-FSU meetings. The team with the better quarterback-efficiency rating is 9-1 in those games, and the team that throws for more yards is only 5-5. It might not be about having gaudy numbers, but rather having the more effective ones.
“I’m very thankful and I’m very excited for this opportunity,” Perry said. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to growing up my whole life.”
Miami coach Mark Richt has full belief that Perry is ready for his first rivalry game.
“I think we just teach him what to do and have him focus on his job,” Richt said. “And that’s the only thing that’s productive, as far as letting your mind going anywhere other than, ‘What do I do this play? What do I do in this coverage?’ That’s what he has got to focus on. The better he does his job, the more confidence he’ll have.”
Francois has more starts under his belt but is still gaining confidence with a new spread-option, no-huddle offense that first-year Florida State coach Willie Taggart has implemented.
The Seminoles have had inconsistent halves throughout the first five games of the season and Francois is also emblematic of that. He struggled in the first half at Louisville, completing just 5 of 12 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. But he was 11 of 15 for 218 yards and three TDs after halftime in leading Florida State to the 28-24 win.
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell feels that Francois is learning “confidence in the system” over time.
“The ability to kind of take what’s given, take completions, managing the line of scrimmage,” Bell said. “And just really from a decision-making process, just confidence in knowing that it’s ok to hand the ball off here, it’s ok to do this here, it’s ok to take the check down here.”
As history has shown in the series, the efficient quarterback performances are the ones that will often lead to a win.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Florida contributed to this report
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