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Five questions, five answers: FSU outlasts Duke, solidifies first place in ACC

With the victory, the Seminoles remain undefeated all-time vs. Duke

Peyton Baker/Tomahawk Nation

After outlasting the No. 16 Duke Blue Devils in a back-and-forth primetime matchup, the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles won their 13th game in a row and moved solely to the top of the ACC.

With the victory, FSU remains undefeated all-time vs. Duke (22-0).

The win didn’t come without work, however — Duke took a lead early and held onto it until the fourth quarter when Jordan Travis put together a 14-play, 96-yard drive to give FSU a 24-20 lead.

What were some of the biggest takeaways from the win?

The Tomahawk Nation staff breaks down five questions from the game with five answers below.

Be honest — did you expect a score like this?

LastNoleOfKrypton: I predicted 41-20 but the content of my prediction couldn’t have been less accurate. I thought it would be much easier but you really have to tip your cap to Mike Elko; he dominated that game until the fourth quarter.

NoleThruandThru: I thought it would be closer, as my score prediction showed. That was a big test for FSU and despite spotting Duke some points, the ‘Noles rallied and took control in the 4th.

Tim: It’s about what I thought. Duke in the low 20s and FSU in the 30s. FSU finally loaded the box and closed down the Duke drives to give the offense more opportunities.

Evenflow58: I went with 34-10 so yeah, I think I did. I didn’t expect the FSU offense to be responsible for so many Duke points.

Ben Meyerson: I expected Duke to keep this game closer and threaten the Seminole's undefeated record but lose 30-20.

Perry Kostidakis: Score? Yes — my prediction was 31-17 with FSU pulling ahead in the fourth, but game? I knew that Duke wasn’t going to be a pushover, even with a hampered or missing Riley Leonard, but I didn’t expect the Blue Devils to take charge so early and get within a few plays of pulling off the upset.

Who was the most impressive player on the field for Florida State tonight?

LastNoleOfKrypton: I have to go with Jordan Travis; he put the team on his back in the fourth quarter vs. an excellent overall defense.

NoleThruandThru: Braden Fiske continues to be incredible. He gets double-teamed and held on seemingly every other play, but still manages to impact the outcome of more plays than not. He is absolutely relentless.

Perry: There were a lot of great individual moments tonight — hardly the most crucial, but Lawrance Toafili’s touchdown was amongst my favorites — but as far as impressive and essential, Jordan Travis kept FSU in the game and earned the Seminoles the win by excelling as a leader and a playmaker. He put plenty of classic Travis magic escapes on film, utilizing his legs more than he has all season, and his needle-thread completion to Keon Coleman during the lead-grabbing drive in the fourth quarter was an in-the-moment exhibition of all the progress he’s made during his years in Tallahassee.

Tim: Darius Washington. The Swiss army offensive lineman is basically giving you a fresh set of legs in the second half (Keiondre Jones as well). But DWash’s willingness to play any offensive line position and play it well has allowed the FSU offense to lean on tiring defensive lines all season.

Evenflow58: This is a tough one but I’m going to go with Jordan Travis. He didn’t do anything he hasn’t shown he can do but he did run the ball like he hasn’t really done so this year. That, and maybe putting Keondre Jones on the line, really opened up the offense for FSU. For two plus quarters they just couldn’t get out of their way. JT’s run simplified so much of this team in both the run and pass game.

Ben Meyerson: Jordan Travis looked more like the 2022 version of himself in this game. The designed running game was bad and the Blue Devils keyed in on Keon Coleman. So Jordan Travis had to step up to the challenge and he did. That was the most encouraging performance I have seen from him all season.

Where are the biggest areas of concern that FSU needs to address moving forward?

LastNoleOfKrypton: It shouldn’t take being on the ropes with playoff hopes on the line to start running your quarterback that runs a 4.5. Mike Norvell and Jordan Travis have to be content with taking what the defense gives them sometimes; particularly when you’re not having a great game upfront.

Tim: The FSU coaches seem content on taking body blows in the first half, staying in the game, and adjusting in the second half. It sounds good and has worked out well so far, but at some point FSU needs to adjust sooner. It was obvious that Duke was going to rush the majority of the time but the Seminoles were fine with a light box leading to steady, time-consuming Duke drives. On the other side of the ball, establish Travis’ legs sooner and the running game opens up for the backs. It’s little things but could make a big difference.

NoleThruandThru: I just don’t understand why Jordan Travis refuses to run. I don’t think it’s the coaches telling him not to- I think it’s mental. The FSU offense is completely different (in a great way) when he uses his legs. I firmly believe that Travis’ lack of running has negatively impacted the production from running backs, especially Trey Benson. We saw the offense firing on all cylinders in the 4th once Travis began running- it felt like 2022 again!

Evenflow58: Getting out of their own way. I don’t understand why the defense was not super aggressive early given Leonard’s limitations and I don’t understand why Travis wasn’t running. Just like Jimbo used to do with Jameis and EJ, Norvell really needs to run JT in the first couple of series at least once. I don’t mean a ZR or something where he has the option of running, I mean a student body right type of run that tells his QB that his legs are special and the offense needs that.

Perry: Trying to figure out how to make the third and fourth quarters happen first, Star Wars style. Much like the aforementioned films, the fourth was the best showing for Florida State tonight but also like those films, you can’t just rely on the easy wins and expect long-term success. You’ve got a formula for success — stay within it while also being imaginative and you produce great results.

Ben Meyerson: The defense is what it is, so while they concern me they are not the biggest concern because this is status quo. The running game and the Johnny Wilson injury are the biggest concerns for me. If the designed run game continues to be this weak the offense cannot reach their full potential. Johnny Wilson was big in this game and he will be important moving forward.

Do you like the aggressive 4th down decisions?

LastNoleOfkrypton: Love the decisions, hate the play-calls. Game states at that point are telling you, you cant push them around the way you thought you could pre-game; adjust your play-calls to your game state and you’re good.

Tim: See what Syvad said above me. Love the decisions, hate the calls. Rinse, repeat.

NoleThruandThru: I don’t mind the decisions as much as I dislike a few of the calls. The failed 4th down deep in FSU territory was due to a poor play call, basically gifting Duke a field goal. Norvell and Atkins seem to be hellbent on establishing the run to the point they get blinded by it. There are far too many playmakers on this offense to make poor playcalling decisions like that.

Evenflow58: Just like everybody else the decision to go was fine, the types of plays where not. It felt like Norvell was calling plays for a team he wants to have, not the team he has. This is a pass first team that’s going to open the run with passes and JT’s legs. They aren’t likely to beat teams up with runs up the middle. Stop that in short yardage!

Perry: After starting the year going eight of 10 on fourth down, FSU is now 0-4 in its last two games. While that’s concerning in a vacuum, keep in mind that last season the Seminoles converted eight the whole year, converting 33% over 13 games. The playcalling could use some refining, but the decision and overall success on fourth this season is nowhere near an alarm for me. (So basically, same as everybody else).

Ben Meyerson: Mike Norvell’s play calls on 4th down continue to be questionable. They have not proven to be good enough in those situations, and short-yardage plays. If Norvell will continue to call similar fourth down plays they should not go for it.

What made the difference in Florida State earning a win?

LastNoleOfKrypton: The defense once again shutting down another offense in the second half; that gave FSU the confidence to not abandon the running game and to start using Jordan Travis’ legs. FSU’s offense put FSU’s defense in terrible positions the first 30 minutes of the game and you gave up 13 offensive points off of one explosive play. Monumental effort.

NoleThruandThru: Jordan Travis using his legs. Everything shifted after he began to run, and Duke’s defense didn’t know what to do because it had gone three quarters completely disrespecting that aspect of Trav’s game. This offense can be unstoppable when 13 plays to his potential as a dual threat.

Evenflow58: Jordan Travis’s legs. It opens up so much for this team. Defenses have to respect JT’s legs and can’t properly attack RBs or rush or play coverage. It’s really a big key in this offense’s identity and needs to be treated as such. Getting the lead allows the defense to be more aggressive and hunt for negative yardage.

Perry: If we’re being reductive, it was Riley Leonard leaving the game at the absolute worst point for Duke. Overall, though, it was the steady production on Florida State’s end that eventually broke through and made the score reflective of the box score. Duke averaged 4.8 yards per play (273 total) to FSU’s 6.2 YPP (420 total).

Ben Meyerson: Norvell made key offensive adjustments in the second half, especially once Riley Leonard went down. The offense started rolling, and with Leonard getting hurt it made it easier but the Seminoles still took care of business against a very good football team. But Duke did have control of the game up until the Leonard injury.