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Florida State defends ACC title: Noles crush Duke

Streeter Lecka

Florida State defended its ACC Championship Saturday against Duke, its 14th in 22 seasons as a league member, but it was not easy in the early going.

Florida State’s offense was just a bit off in the first quarter, as quarterback Jameis Winston started 1-6 and was just 3-8 in the frame for 42 yards. Winston was just off on a few throws, and was also the victim of a drop. For the most part, pass protection was solid, and the run game was effective. But on a 22-yard run, Devonta Freeman fumbled on Duke’s 2-yard line, giving the Blue Devils the ball.

Duke then marched on a 15-play, 67-yard drive that ate 6:03 off the clock, ending in a missed field goal. The two teams traded punts after that, but on Florida State’s fourth drive of the game, the Seminoles put things together with a 9-play, 64-yard touchdown drive and the 7-0 lead. Florida State’s defense continued to dominate the Blue Devils throughout the first half, allowing just 94 total yards on 36 plays, a ridiculous number in a championship game. FSU had two more scoring drives in the quarter, and went to the half up 17-0.

Coming out of the half, Florida State exploded for three touchdowns in the third quarter to push the lead to 38-0, and a yardage edge of 492-149. In the third quarter, Florida State forced two turnovers, continued to dominate Duke’s offense, and Kelvin Benjamin had a 54-yard receiving touchdown. Jameis Winston also added a touchdown on a 17-yard touchdown run that ended with a potentially dangerous leap into the end zone.

Jameis Winston set the national freshman record for touchdowns by a quarterback (38) and yards (3820), both of which were previously owned by Sam Bradford of Oklahoma. On the night, Winston was 19-32 for 333 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown. Winston is the overwhelming Heisman favorite.

At the time Florida State pulled its starters, it had outscored Duke 45-0, outgained the Blue Devils 562 (7.7) to 164 (2.8), and had held Duke to just 4-17 on third down.

Next: Florida State will play for the national title in Pasadena on January 6.