ACC Football: Duke still isn't in Florida State's class
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This one was over in a hurry, and Duke coach David Cutcliffe was disappointed with the Blue Devils’ performance.
Quarterback Sean Renfree was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with an unspecified head injury, and the Blue Devils went on to a 48-7 loss at No. 11 Florida State on Saturday.
“We didn’t respond to that very good team,” Cutcliffe said. “We didn’t play well on first down, we didn’t play well on second down, we didn’t play well on third down. That makes it really hard.”
The Seminoles (8-1, 5-1 ACC) scored on their third play of the game when EJ Manuel hit Rashad Greene in stride for a 71-yard touchdown. They led 31-0 early in the second quarter.
Manuel tossed two touchdown passes and Devonta Freeman ran for two more scores, while kicker Dustin Hopkins became the ACC’s career leader when he drilled his 81st field goal to eclipse former Maryland kicker Nick Novak’s mark. Hopkins did it in style as well with a career-best 56-yarder, seconds after he had made a 51-yard try that was nullified by a delay of game penalty.
“There was no doubt about 5 yards or anything,” said Hopkins, who kicked a 55-yarder as the game ended to beat Clemson two years ago. “I just knew I had to kick a good clean ball.”
Renfree completed 13 of 21 passes for 92 yards before he left with the head injury. Anthony Boone was 3 of 15 for 37 yards against a Florida State defense that leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in virtually all categories.
Cutcliffe said Renfree would be further evaluated by medical personnel, but still wasn’t feeling very good after the game.
“It’s a circumstance for the doctors to handle,” he said.
Despite losing by a big margin for the third time this season, Duke isn’t out of the running in the Coastal Division. But it has a rugged road ahead with visits to Clemson and Miami sandwiching a Nov. 17 home date with Georgia Tech.
“We have to move on,” Duke wide receiver Desmond Scott said. “We’re going to show the young fellows how you bounce back from a loss like that.”
Florida State is unbeaten in 18 games against Duke and has won by 19 or more points in each of those games. It became clearly quickly Saturday that things weren’t going to change.
But after adding two quick touchdowns in the first five minutes of the third quarter to take a 45-7 lead on Manuel’s 35-yard scoring pass to Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State bogged down with mistakes and managed just Hopkins’ record-breaking field goal in the final 25 minutes.
Freeman, who finished with 105 yards rushing, scored on runs of 9 and 14 yards and James Wilder Jr. chipped in with 70 yards and a 1-yard TD run. The two sophomores have taken over for leading rusher Chris Thompson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 33-20 win at Miami.
Duke’s Conner Vernon caught three passes to extend his nation’s best string to 44 consecutive games with at least one catch.
“I would like to think that what we just saw is somewhat of an aberration – when you have all three phases break down consistently,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ll regroup.”