A happy Halloween came early in Tallahassee.
Duke tricked people by becoming bowl-eligible.
On Saturday, Florida State fans were treated to a blowout.
The Seminoles are 8-1 for the first time since 2003 and continue to show signs of revival as the ACC's long-dormant powerhouse. N.C. State lost yesterday, clearing the logjam atop the Atlantic Division standings.
Maryland, a one-loss team in conference play, also lost. Jimbo Fisher's squad needs to keep a keen eye on Virginia Tech and Maryland, though, since Clemson is one FSU loss away from being the flagship of the Atlantic Division.
Duke was not a tough adversary (talent gap—sorry, Blue Devils) but gave chances for stars on the offensive and defensive side of the ball to pad their stats before the clash at Virginia Tech.
E.J. Manuel had a few highlight plays at homecoming.
After an underthrown side-pass to James Wilder Jr., E.J. Manuel decided to go for a touchdown. Rashad Greene took a beautiful spiral 71 yards to the house.
Manuel had another passing touchdown, and while not every pass he threw met its target (he was 8-of-16) and he had an early fumble, the senior quarterback was of adequate service to FSU into the fourth quarter.
Once again, his leadership should not be questioned. Jimbo Fisher let Manuel jazz up the guys for the homecoming game, and with a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter, it is safe to say that Manuel's peers responded.
Anthony Boone was put in a rough situation.
Again, it is necessary to repeat that these people are not "losers"; they just had a bad day at the office.
When Duke starting quarterback Sean Renfree was injured in the second quarter, backup Anthony Boone was handed the reins.
Boone had a motivated Florida State defensive force and was in hostile territory, but anyone who finishes 3-of-15 for a measly 37 yards was obviously jolted.
There was a silver lining, though—Boone, like Renfree, did an excellent job at not turning over the ball.
Christian Jones was a linebacker on a mission against Duke.
There was a trend in Doak Campbell Stadium that started in the first quarter.
"Tackle by Christian Jones. Christian Jones stops the punt return. Oh my, Jones again!"
All I heard was Christian Jones, Christian Jones, Christian Jones.
And why shouldn't we?
The monster junior had a tremendous day, tallying 11 total tackles. Three tackles went for a loss; the Winter Park, Fla., linebacker matched the prowess of everyone's Dynamic Duo of Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine.
Rodney Smith had a case of butterfingers on Saturday.
Receiver Rodney Smith did make the most of his catches. The senior from Miami went for 112 yards on just three carries.
Unfortunately, Smith (like Manuel) caused a turnover during the game. Smith's came in a sloppy third-quarter performance by the Seminoles.
Smith has been a true-blood Seminole for staying at Florida State, but his lack of touchdowns combined with a turnover is not befitting of someone with his experience.
Devonta Freeman has a right to celebrate after two touchdowns.
Everybody loves Chris (Thompson). See what I did there—referenced a show. Oh, what fun!
Devonta Freeman had a ton of fun, proving he could adequately substitute for his buddy Mr. Thompson. Freeman, just a sophomore, scored two touchdowns on the ground and eclipsed the 100-yard mark. His average of 8.7 yards per carry showed that the offense has reloaded from Thompson's loss. He did have a fumble in the third quarter, which was slightly troubling.
I was surprised that James Wilder didn't get the ball more than Freeman. Freeman has more starts and is the speedier of the two, which might explain that phenomenon.
Lonnie Pryor also had a solid day blocking but carried the rock six times for 32 yards.
Jimbo Fisher's call to discipline is what builds powerhouses.
They had been out for a while now, so I was getting concerned.
The game was already decided in the fourth quarter, but Jimbo Fisher was still keeping his starters on the field.
Yes, there was a respectable strategy to this action. Fisher wants his boys to be ready to beat Virginia Tech on the road after the upcoming bye week. Frank Beamer's Hokies are in relative free-fall, but Coach is wise for wanting to avoid another road upset.
But, seriously, do you want your players to get hurt? E.J. Manuel had finished his job, and keeping him in the game any longer would have been preposterous. But perhaps, I am being too overprotective of everybody's favorite Seminole.
I respect Fisher for motivating his team in the third quarter by sending out the starters again. They need to know that if you turn the ball over multiple times, you will more than likely lose (i.e. Florida Gators).
It sent a message to his fumble-prone underclassmen about responsibility, and what a privilege it is to play on Bobby Bowden Field. That discipline will eventually win championships.
His choice was risky—but it sent a message.
Jimbo and Duke coach Cutcliffe seemed to be terse during the handshake.
Coach Cutcliffe and Jimbo Fisher may have disagreed on how their teams ought to play in a fourth-quarter rout, but they let bygones be bygones.
Cutcliffe is a winner because he faced the nearly insurmountable reality that Florida State was going to win this game. From the beginning, he kept the ball out of turnover-prone QB Sean Renfree's hands and tried to minimize injuries. He didn't run his players up against the ACC's best defensive line for kicks. Unfortunately, Renfree was hurt in the second quarter.
That doesn't change the fact Coach Cutcliffe was slyly prepping his team for future tests that Duke has a marginally better chance of winning—against Miami, at Georgia Tech and maybe even Clemson.
A freshmen punt returner made Duke look silly. The Seminoles were already up 7-0, but Hunter made that Tyrann Mathieu-type play that breaks the floodgates open.
Though Tyler Hunter would later turn over the ball in this game, his return is so epic it merits commendation.
Duke, although they tried—and that's what matters—looked silly on the field on Saturday.
Duke's Punter Will Monday's kicks went out of bounds four times. Better luck next time, bud.
Dustin Hopkins keeps kicking his way into record books.
But Hopkins—though he hasn't been in do-or-die last-second field goal situations—continues to impress doubters, believers and the NCAA record books.
Dustin Hopkins recorded a 56-yard field goal against Duke, breaking his personal-best 55-yard kick to beat Clemson two years ago. That field goal has tied for the longest in FSU history. And it came after a 51-yard attempt that went straight down the middle was called back. He is in excellent position to make the most field goals in NCAA history.
The other 56-yard field goal was, by some Seminole alum, named Sebastian Janikowski. Maybe you've heard of him?
Hopkins now leads the Atlantic Coast Conference for all-time field goals by a player. He broke Nick Novak of Maryland's record of 80 field goals by kicking his 81st.
Hopkins must feel relieved he won a homecoming game, as the Seminoles had lost two consecutive homecoming games at the last second on his watch. With seven seconds left in the 2010 homecoming game, Hopkins missed and handed UNC a 37-35 victory. Last year, Hopkins missed a field goal against Virginia as time expired.
Which leads us to...
The Seminoles won a homecoming game for the first time in three years.
When you've just got through mid-terms, a homecoming victory gets you to Thanksgiving. Even though it was a mismatch, the fact that FSU has begun to sledgehammer its opponents again proves that FSU is coming back.
Win an ACC title—like the Seminoles are headed toward right now—and you'll have completed the next step.
Also, hearing that the undefeated Gators and N.C. State lost comforted many fans.
Things won't be so cozy at Virginia Tech, but the Seminoles have plenty of time—and motivation—to whoop the Hokies.
For more detailed game review, please refer to the ACC Network's FSU-Duke evaluation.