Florida State regained control of its ACC destiny, then disposed of the Duke Blue Devils 48-7 at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday.
On the same day it regained control of the ACC Atlantic with a North Carolina win over North Carolina State, FSU took control of the Blue Devils with a dominating first half.
EJ Manuel connected with Rashad Greene for a 71-yard touchdown on the Seminoles' opening possession as they never looked back. FSU (8-1, 5-1 ACC) took a 31-7 lead into the half as Manuel also connected on completions of 52 and 34 yards in the first half to set up a pair of rushing touchdowns.
"Loved the way we came out of the gates," said head coach Jimbo Fisher. "Played very well early, offensively, defensively, special teams. Established a tempo in the game, really through the first drives through to the second half. Came out and bang bang."
Duke's (6-3, 3-2 ACC) passing attack, which ranked second in the ACC entering Saturday with an average of 289 yards per game, couldn't get anything going. Redshirt senior quarterback Sean Renfree was just 13 of 21 for 92 yards before leaving the game with a concussion. Backup Anthony Boone wasn't able to do much either finishing the game 3 of 15 for 37 yards.
Wide receiver Conner Vernon, who needed just 93 yards to become the ACC's All-time leading receiver, finished with just three receptions for 12 yards.
"These guys came in second in the ACC, number one in their division, so we challenged ourselves," said FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner. "Those guys felt like they could compete with us and they've got a great team. To shut out that kind of offense with the players they have, and the coaching and the system they run, it shows you about this organization and how good we can be as a team."
Cornellius Carradine was a big factor in the Blue Devils passing game struggles as he recorded five tackles and four quarterback hurries as he punished Renfree a number of times just as he let go of the ball.
The Blue Devils' lone touchdown came on a three-yard run byJela Duncan on a drive that was prolonged by two separate FSU personal foul penalties. Duke finished with just 103 yards rushing on 33 attempts in the game, and 232 yards of total offense.
"Stopping the run was the key," Fisher said. "Stopping the run and then getting pressure. Making it third-and-9, third-and-8, not having the nickel and dime things and getting to them."
After Greene's long touchdown catch on the opening possession, FSU found the endzone again on a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by new starting punt returner Tyler Hunter. FSU took full control of the game after a 52-yard reception by Rodney Smith setup a James Wilder touchdown run for a 24-0 lead with 13:50 left in the half.
FSU started the second half off with a two-play, 29-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 14-yard Devonta Freeman run. The short field was set up by a failed onside kick attempt by the Blue Devils out of the half. FSU scored on its next possession of the half as Manuel hit Kelvin Benjamin for a 35-yards score.
Manuel finished the game just 8 of 16, but had 282 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns. On the ground Freeman led the way with 104 yards and two TDs on 12 carries, and Wilder Jr. had 70 yards and a score on 13 attempts.
FSU finished the game with 560 yards of total offense, but the second half was marred a bit by three lost fumbles. First Hunter dropped a punt at his own 22, which lead a missed Duke field goal. On the ensuing possession Smith fumbled the ball after a 36-yard reception, and after a punt Freeman followed with a fumble of his own.
Fisher vowed to get the turnovers fixed during next week's bye week, but was pleased overall with how his team put the Blue Devils away on Saturday.
"They stayed on it," Fisher said. "Very proud of the offense, came out the first two drives (of the second half) and bang, bang, two quick scores and then the defense got three-and-outs."