Hurricanes defensive coordinator Lance Guidry was not on the sidelines for Florida State’s 45-3 dismantling of Miami at Hard Rock Stadium last year, but he knows what happened.
When asked about “one play” FSU ran to perfection in that game, he knew the topic before the question could be finished.
“Counter. Counter. Counter. Counter,” Guidry said, laughing, as UM prepares for Saturday’s showdown at No. 4 Florida State (3:30 p.m., ABC).
“It’s not just their linemen,” Guidry added. “Their running backs are very good at breaking tackles. Last year, we didn’t fit things properly, and sometimes the running back just made the play. So we’re going to work on counter.”
The Seminoles ran a counter run, where offensive linemen pull and run to the other side of the line and running backs often feint one direction before taking the handoff the other way, 32 times against the Hurricanes last year, former UM defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said in 2022. FSU ended the game with 229 rushing yards.
Star running back Trey Benson had 128 rushing yards and two scores against Miami last year. This season, he has 641 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 97 carries.
“This team is a very talented team,” linebacker Francisco Mauigoa said. “They’ve got a really good O-line and they’ve got really talented running backs and they’ve got a quarterback that can run, too. Our defense, we emphasize running game and we take pride in that. Coming into this game, they do runs well throughout the season. We’ve just got to fit our gaps, do our own thing, do what the coaches are teaching us and we’ll game plan around it.”
Guidry described in depth how difficult it is to stop the Seminoles’ counter plays. He said FSU gives few, if any, hints on which direction they’re going to run the ball. He compared stopping the play to excelling at Tetris.
“If you knew which way they were going to run, it would be better,” Guidry said. “But a lot of times, you can get a key, whether it’s to the running-back side they run it or are they running away from the running-back side. They run it both (ways). They also run it out of Pistol. They’ll run it with a tight end off the ball or on the ball, and they’ll run it away from him. So there’s really no indicator of which way they’ll run it. So you’ve got to make sure you have an extra defender every time they run it because if they pull guard (and) tackle, they’re creating gaps on the other side. They’re taking two and bringing them on the other side, so you’ve got to be able to add two extra guys on that side.
“How you do it is dependent on which structure of the defense you’re in. … Remember the game Tetris, where you kind of fit things? That’s how it is in fitting the counter. You’ve got to pull things from this side to get it over here to stop the play, and then you’ve also got to have a guy on the quarterback in case he pulls it by trying to get people over. So it’s tough. It’s a tough situation. You can blitz from the side. You can blitz away from it. You can use interior guys to read it and get an extra hat. It just depends on what structure we’re in is how we’ll try to stop it.”
Guidry said the Seminoles have been running counter less this season, but that may or may not be because they are worse at it. It may have more to do with quarterback Jordan Travis excelling at passing. Travis, a Benjamin School alum, has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,469 yards and 19 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
“Last year, they were very, very good at it,” Guidry said. “This year, I don’t know if they’re not as good, but they throw the ball a lot more. So you’ve got to deal with the counter with the running back and the quarterback, and then they have the play action off of it. They create a lot of problems, but they’re good at running the counter. It’s their best play. We’ll have to do a good job of defending it, of course.”
Travis is also dangerous when he keeps the ball. The veteran quarterback has run for seven touchdowns this season.
“He has the ability to extend plays,” Miami defensive lineman Jared Harrison-Hunte said. “We have to find a way to get him on the ground and get him in third-and-long situations and just get him off the field.”
Although the Seminoles used counter to perfection last year, that does not mean they will run it 30 more times on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for Miami, FSU has a host of effective offensive weapons that they can use against the Hurricanes’ defense.
“They’re going to attack us different because we’re a different type of defense,” Guidry said. “We line up differently than we did. We’re trying to find the same type of fronts and same type of pressures, the same type of zones that other defenses have ran against Florida State and look at those videos and see how they played it.”