by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke resumes its series with Florida State on a perfect afternoon for, well, anything anyone would want to do outdoors.
And everything seems to be pointing in the direction of a possible Duke upset.
It’s the first meeting in four years. Now yes, FSU has won all 16 meetings in the series and has never come closer than 19 points. And David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils (3-2, 1-0 ACC) are on a three-game winning streak while Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles (2-3, 0-2) — which were actually the favorites for the ACC title — have lost three straight.
Still the visitors are 12 ½-point favorites.
And the oddsmakers, as usual, turn out to be right.
On the day Duke radio guy Bob Harris calls his 400th straight game, the Blue Devils get way behind early and can’t get it back in a 41-16 loss.
FSU scores first after a quick interception by Everett Dawkins, tallying on Dustin Hopkins’ 27-yard field goal at 11:00.
Duke is quick to retaliate, going 40 yards in six plays for a 38-yard field goal from Will Snyderwine.
But that’s the end of that.
FSU’s E.J.Manuel scores on a 1-yard run at the 7:50 mark, and then hits Rodney Smith on a 50-yard scoring pass at 3:01.
The Seminoles’ Devonta Freeman scores on a 10-yard run with 13:48 left in the second, and then Hopkins adds a 48-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer and it’s 27-3.
FSU adds seven more with 8:26 left in the third, as Manuel hits Nick O’Leary for a three-yard scoring toss.
Duke gets some momentum in the fourth, with Juwan Thompson going in from a yard out at 14:23, Snyderwine adding the boot and the onside kick a success.
But after Sean Renfree finds Cooper Helfet from five yards out at 12:38, it all goes awry when the two-point conversion fails and so does the onside kick attempt.
Manuel adds a six-yard scoring run with 9:49 left to quash any late drama.
Manuel, who had a separated shoulder 28 days earlier, completes nine of 14 for 239 yards and two TDs — his best ever against an ACC foe — while adding 62 and two TDs on the ground for 301 total offense. Freeman chips in 109 yards and the TD on 19 carries. Many receivers carry the load. Dustin Hopkins hits two field goals and all his extra points for the Seminoles to stay perfect in both categories this season.
Renfree completes 26 of 43 passes for 226 yards and a TD with one interception, with Conner Vernon catching six for 88 yards. Desmond Scott has a good rushing day with 66 yards in 10 totes.
They said it …
Cutcliffe: “I had some concerns. Defensively, how would you match up? We have been beat up in the secondary and that was the initial part of it, the three 50-yard (first-quarter) passes. (But) offensively, I felt we matched up fine. We just never got into a rhythm. We were bad on first down.”
Fisher: “Don’t ever take (winning) for granted, it makes a big difference. I’m proud of the way we battled. We played aggressive early and played smart early, and made some turnovers that gave us some opportunities. We were able to establish the running game and make big plays.”
Manuel: “I felt 100 percent. If I’m hurt it doesn’t matter. If my legs are still moving and I can throw the ball with my right arm I’m good. (But) I’ve still got to protect the shoulder. There’s no point in trying to be Superman and be stupid.”
Helfet: “It’s always hard when we go out there and we can’t get momentum going on offense and we’re not making the tackles we need to make on defense. … I like it when Sean gives me a chance to make a play on the ball. I’m a taller guy who had a smaller guy guarding me so he let me go up and make plays. That’s what I like to do, and he gave me a chance to do it today.”
What does it all mean?
That the Seminoles seem to have righted the ship, while Duke really, really needs to beat Wake Forest in Durham next week.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Smith’s 50-yard TD pass from Manuel to help make it 17-3.
FSU leads 17-0.
Duke: Lost 1.
FSU: Won 1.
Duke vs. Wake Forest, Oct. 22, TBA
FSU vs. Maryland, Oct. 22, TBA