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COLLEGE PARK, Md. - On this road trip, Florida State provided no drama. It allowed for zero uncertainty.
In a matter of six minutes, the Seminoles just put this one away.
FSU scored twice in the first 5:56 and never looked back, drubbing an overmatched Maryland team 41-14 at Byrd Stadium on Saturday to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division Title. Florida State could face Georgia Tech, Miami or Duke for the ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. on Dec. 1.
"I'm very proud of our team to come out on the road and get the Atlantic Division Championship," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who has won division titles in two of his first three seasons at Florida State. The Seminoles are 10-1 for the first time since 2000 and finished conference play at 7-1 for the first time since 2003.
"I'm very proud of the way we started the football game," he said.
Despite some struggles in the first half of FSU's last two road games, what little doubt surrounded the game coming in - FSU entered as a 31-point favorite - was smothered almost instantly. The Seminoles opened the game with an imposing 11-play, 62-yard scoring drive - running the ball eight times - capped by a tough five-yard touchdown run from Devonta Freeman.
On the ensuing kickoff, FSU reserve fullback Chad Abram forced a fumble with a big hit and it was scooped up by Toshmon Stevens to set the 'Noles up at the Maryland 10. Manuel found tight end Nick O'Leary for the touchdown on the next play to take a 14-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first quarter.
From there, the rout was on. Florida State led 17-0 after one quarter and 27-0 at the half.
"We wanted to come out here and get a defining drive early in the game and that was it for us," said Manuel, who finished 17 of 23 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. "It was very important - we hadn't done it a lot in the past couple of road games and the fact that we came out here and did it (Saturday) I thought it was good for us."
Down 14-0 early with the No. 120-ranked scoring offense and a fifth-string quarterback (Shawn Petty) who moved over from linebacker three weeks ago, Maryland (4-7, 2-5 ACC) moving the ball against the FSU - the nation's top total defense - proved too tall an order.
Maryland mustered just 27 yards on six first-half possessions, 22 of which came on its opening drive. The Terps finished with 34 yards rushing on 34 carries and 170 total yards. Its only semblance of sustained offense came on an 81-yard scoring drive to open the second half trailing by 27.
"You can't give Florida State that many point early on," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said. "With what we have to try and do offensive we can't play from behind like that. It makes it hard."
Petty was 8-of-19 passing for 136 yards and was sacked five times. Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine each tallied 1.5 sacks.
Freeman was FSU's workhorse in a resurgent running game that posted minus-15 yards rushing at Virginia Tech last week, the lowest total by FSU in a game since at least 1969. Freeman rumbled for a career-high 148 yards and two touchdowns, leading the charge for a ground game that posted 237 yards. James Wilder, who has been working back from a minor shoulder injury, had 52 yards on eight carries.
"My mentality is just to not ever let one man bring me down," Freeman said.
While the 'Noles cruised from the first quarter on, FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins made history with a 26-yard field goal, breaking the NCAA record for scoring by a kicker. He finished Saturday with 448 career points.
And with 14 quick points on Saturday, Florida State made taking the Atlantic look easy.