FSU won't dominate Miami's focus in 2015

PINEHURST, N.C. — Miami opens the 2015 ACC season on Oct. 10 against Florida State, but the Hurricanes are already talking about what comes next.

For the past two years, linebacker Raphael Kirby said, FSU has been the focal point for Miami, and it has upended the Hurricanes’ seasons.

“The past two years, after losing to Florida State, we kind of sulked, heads down,” Kirby said. “We can’t let that define us.”

In 2013, Miami came to Tallahassee with a 7-0 record and ranked seventh nationally, but, after a 41-14 loss to the Seminoles, the Canes finished by going 2-3. In 2014, Miami was 6-3 before falling to FSU at home, and that season ended with three more losses in a row. Combined, the Hurricanes were 13-3 before playing FSU the past two years and just 2-8 from that game forward.

The problems, QB Brad Kaaya said, were largely self-inflicted.

“That’s what we’re focusing on: It’s not just about Florida State this year,” Kaaya said. “It’s about the Coastal [Division]. You can’t go into the season thinking, ‘I’m going to go out there, give it my all to beat Florida State or Nebraska,’ and you don’t win your own conference.”

Kaaya said his time at the ACC awards ceremonies before the ACC championship game in December put things into perspective.

“Florida State’s band was playing. Georgia Tech’s band was playing. And I’m thinking that my team was back at home watching it,” he said. “I don’t want to be on the couch in December. I want to be playing.”

So when a reporter at Monday’s ACC Kickoff event asked Kaaya whether the early matchup against FSU this year could be a springboard for a great season at Miami, he was quick to shoot down the notion.

“We’re going after everyone,” Kaaya said. “Everyone’s a target this year. It’s not just Florida State. Our whole mantra has changed. It’s not all about them. Every game is a springboard.”

Still, that doesn’t mean the Hurricanes are cashing in their chips against their archrival, either. Kirby said the locker room dynamic has improved this year, but when it comes to handling another potential Florida State loss, he’s not giving that much thought.

“I’m not talking about if we lose,” he said, “because we’re not.”