TOO HOT TO HANDLE
The nation’s best college football team didn’t knock out Duke with the haymaker it utilized so many times this season.
Instead, No. 1 Florida State took care of the plucky underdogs with a series of big plays that finally subdued the No. 20 Blue Devils.
Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Seminoles clinched a spot in the BCS National Championship game with a 45-7 win over Duke in the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium.
“Obviously disappointed in the result of the game,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Not disappointed in our preparation, not disappointed in our effort.”
Duke (10-3) saw its eight-game winning streak end but will get another chance to play this season. The Blue Devils will receive a bowl invitation for the second consecutive season, a program first. The Chick-Fil-A Bowl, played in Atlanta on Dec. 31, is the most likely destination with the Dec. 28 Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando also a possibility.
“This has been one heckuva year,” Duke quarterback Anthony Boone said. “We’ll definitely be back next year — I promise you that — and we still have a bowl game to win. That’s still one of our big goals. We went to a bowl game last year, got a taste of it, but this year we want to leave with (a win).”
Even in the lopsided loss to Florida State, Duke accomplished something no other team had against the powerful Seminoles this season by holding them scoreless in the first quarter.
The Seminoles (13-0) had outscored their opposition 162-35 in the first quarter this season, making a habit of blowing teams out early while rolling to easy wins.
The game’s end result, though, looked similar to Florida State’s first 12 games this season. The Seminoles ran away from Duke in the second half.
Duke limited Florida State’s big plays for most of the first half, intercepting a pass and recovering a fumble, and yet still trailed 17-0 at halftime. Florida State’s longest plays from scrimmage went for 22 yards twice. The Seminoles had two other plays of 20 yards or more in the half.
In the second quarter, Winston’s 12-yard pass to tight end Nick O’Leary to third-and-8 from the Duke 26 represented a play that helped do in the Blue Devils.
On the next play, with 12:36 left in the second quarter, Winston fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin to put Florida State up 7-0.
Even on that play, Duke was close to a big play. Freshman cornerback Bryon Fields and redshirt sophomore Jeremy Cash were right with Benjamin, but Fields didn’t turn to make a play on the ball and Benjamin scored.
Later in the second quarter, Devonta Freeman caught a screen pass from Winston and three Duke players missed tackles as he gained 22 yards on a second-and-19 play from the Seminoles 30.
Winston also hooked up with Benjamin for 16 yards on third-and-5 to move Florida State into Duke territory. Three plays later, Florida State had doubled its lead to 14-0 as Karlos Williams ran 12 yards for a touchdown.
Though behind at halftime, Duke’s players still felt they had a chance to notch the school’s first football win over a No.1-ranked team.
“We went into halftime and we were just so pumped up,” Cockrell said. “Even being down 17-0 that was something we had been in the position of before (in a 35-22 comeback win at Virginia on Oct. 19). We couldn’t wait to get back out there and play.”
In the third quarter, the Florida State juggernaut seen so many times this season arrived to finally swamp Duke.
Winston threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Shaw and a 54-yard scoring strike to Benjamin before running 17 yards for a score of his own as the Seminoles lead 38-0 entering the fourth quarter.
“Florida State made some plays on us,” Cockrell said. “They are a great team.”
While Duke’s defense was overwhelmed while trying to contain the Seminoles offense, Duke’s offense was downright anemic against Florida State’s accomplished defense.
In the first half, when the game was competitive, Duke managed only five first downs.
In the first quarter, Duke netted 13 yards of total offense on eight first-down plays. The Blue Devils had only 94 yards of offense before halftime.
Boone finished 20 of 40 passes for 138 yards and two interceptions. Duke’s rushing offense, averaging nearly 180 yards per game, finished with 99 yards.
On defense, freshman cornerback Breon Borders set an ACC championship game record with two interceptions.
On the downside, though, safety Dwayne Norman was ejected in the fourth quarter after being called for a personal foul for leading with the crown of his helmet. Norman hit O’Leary in the end zone while breaking up a pass.
The penalty and ejection means Norman is ineligible to play in the first half of Duke’s bowl game.
“You know, that’s a tough rule,” Cutcliffe said. “All he was doing was breaking on the football. You’re teaching him try not to take a blow at the head, so he had to go low, which he did, and did a good job of. What they told me they called was that he used the crown of his helmet. Well, when you go low, when you put your shoulders down to keep from hitting a guy in the head, your head goes with it. So that’s just an interesting call, and I’m disappointed that that occurred that late in the game with the score what it was, and we lose a guy for the first half of a bowl game. You know, that’s not ideal.”
Duke also lost starting right tackle Perry Simmons to what Cutcliffe called a “pretty significant knee injury.” Simmons has started Duke’s last 50 games.
|No. 1 FLORIDA ST. 45, No. 20 DUKE 7|
FSU_Benjamin 14 pass from Winston (Aguayo kick), 12:36.
FSU_K.Williams 12 run (Aguayo kick), 3:37.
FSU_FG Aguayo 45, :25.
FSU_Shaw 11 pass from Winston (Aguayo kick), 9:52.
FSU_Benjamin 54 pass from Winston (Aguayo kick), 6:31.
FSU_Winston 17 run (Aguayo kick), 2:38.
FSU_Freeman 7 run (Aguayo kick), 7:25.
Duke_Snead 5 run (Martin kick), 1:01.
|Time of Possession||30:44||29:16|
RUSHING_Duke, Powell 8-44, Thompson 6-19, Snead 7-17, Duncan 5-16,
Connette 1-4, Crowder 1-4, Boone 3-(minus 5). Florida St.,
Freeman 18-91, Winston 10-59, K.Williams 7-55, Wilder 5-25,
Stevenson 1-6, Abram 1-2, R.Green 1-1.
PASSING_Duke, Boone 20-40-2-138, Connette 1-1-0-2, Crowder 0-1-0-0.
Florida St., Winston 19-32-2-330.
RECEIVING_Duke, Crowder 8-66, Deaver 4-17, Blakeney 2-22,
McCaffrey 2-14, Barnes 2-(minus 2), Reeves 1-10, Duncan 1-8, Powell 1-5.
Florida St., Greene 6-67, Benjamin 5-119, Shaw 4-74, O'Leary 3-48,