FSU Fifth Quarter: Duke
FSU Fifth Quarter is a weekly column recapping the week that was in Florida State football. Offense, defense, and special teams are broken down, and highly-coveted tomahawk helmet stickers are awarded based on performance. Nothing comes easy around here, and like Coach Fisher says, “You gotta earn it.” The name of the column, “Fifth Quarter,” pays tribute to one of the greatest Seminole victories of all-time.
“In the 1994 installment of their annual rivalry, the Florida Gators blew a 28-point fourth quarter lead, resulting in a 31-31 tie affectionately known by Seminole fans as “The Choke at Doak.” The selection committee for the Sugar Bowl knew fans wanted a rematch to determine a winner. Prior to kickoff, scoreboards in the Superdome read FSU 31, Florida 31 entering the fifth quarter, and thus the “Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter” was born.” The Seminoles won 23–17.
In case you missed it…..
Florida State 48 Duke 7
When the Noles win big it always makes my job (and life) much easier. As expected, Florida State dismantled Duke on Saturday and regained control of its ACC destiny with NC State losing to rival North Carolina. There really was no cause for concern, as is typically the case when Duke rolls into Tallahassee. The weather was perfect, it was homecoming weekend and the Blue Devils were about to drop to 0-18 all-time against FSU. Unlike in weeks past, the Seminoles started strong – scoring on their third play from scrimmage and leaving their foot on the gas en route to the 41-point victory. The Noles head into their much needed week off at a respectable 8-1 overall record, in first place in the ACC Atlantic and currently sit at #9 in the BCS rankings. Florida State will next travel to Blacksburg on November 8 (another Thursday-night away game, Seminole fans….) to take on Virginia Tech.
I hate overly-used sports cliches, but the Noles really did come out firing-on-all-cylinders Saturday. Less than three minutes into the game, EJ Manuel hooked up with Rashad Greene for a 71-yard touchdown strike that pretty much set the tone for the remaining 57 minutes. Manuel only completed eight passes on the day, but finished with 282 yards through the air, 35.5 yards-per-completion and two touchdowns (Playstation numbers, my friends). Sophomore running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. shared the ground attack in place of the injured Chris Thompson. Freeman finished with 104 yards and two touchdowns, while Wilder had 70 yards and a score. The Seminoles finished the day with 560 yards of total offense and five touchdowns.
Overall Rating: The Noles punched Duke in the mouth from the get go and never really let up. The Blue Devils were helpless against Florida State’s arsenal of weapons, and the score could have been much worse if it wasn’t for a couple of sloppy fumbles by the Noles. FSU loses half of a tomahawk for the lost fumbles. I demand perfection around here. 4.5 Chops.
Duke came into the game averaging 289 passing yards per game, second in the ACC behind only Clemson. We know that they only scored seven points, so it couldn’t possibly have been a good day for the Duke offense. Redshirt senior quarterback Sean Renfree was just 13 of 21 for 92 yards before being knocked out of the game with a concussion. I don’t know if he really had a concussion or just didn’t want to come back in, and I wouldn’t blame him. The Noles defense was disruptive all day long – stuffing the run, pressuring Renfree and backup quarterback Anthony Boone and shutting down the all-time leading receiver in the ACC, Conner Vernon, who finished with just three receptions for 12 yards. It was basically a display of shutdown, overpowering dominance by the Seminole defense, worthy indeed of a five tomahawk rating this week.
Overall Rating: The Noles held Duke to just 232 yards of offense and 7 points. Dominating the way they should. 5 Chops.
Senior kicker Dustin Hopkins had a milestone day, kicking a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter and adding career long 56-yard field goal in the third. It was the 56-yarder that put Hopkins in the record book as the ACC’s all time leader in field goals made with 81. Sophomore defensive back Tyler Hunter also showcased why Coach Jimbo Fisher tagged him as the new starting punt returner, taking a 75-yard punt to the house on his first attempt to give the Noles a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. Hunter did drop a punt at the FSU 22, which was recovered by Duke, but the Blue Devils squandered away that chance by missing a field goal.
Overall Rating: Hopkins breaking the ACC kicking record on his 56-yarder while also making it a career long is almost enough to warrant a 5 chop ranking, and you would think Tyler Hunter’s impressive debut would push it over the top. Special Teams loses a half-chop due to the fumble by Hunter. Tighten it up before the Hokies get after it. 4.5 Chops.
Areas of Concern
The Noles lost three fumbles to Duke on Saturday. We talked about Tyler Hunter’s muff on the punt return, receiver Rodney Smith fumbled the ball after a 36-yard reception, and Devonta Freeman followed with a fumble of his own. If the Noles make those types of mistakes against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, FSU might as well kiss their ACC title hopes goodbye. What Coach Fisher needs to do is pull a Jimmy Caan from the movie The Program and make the ball carriers tote footballs around campus all week while everybody and their mothers try to jar that ball loose. Mistake free football in a hostile environment like Blacksburg is the key to FSU emerging victorious and returning to the ACC championship and potentially a BCS bowl. The Noles got away with sloppy play against Miami and Duke, but keep it up and they won’t be so lucky against Frank Beamer and the Hokies.
Next Game: November 8 (Thursday) @ Virginia Tech