Game Wrap: FSU Remains Unbeaten vs Duke

When the going got tough, the tough got going. Jordan Travis used his legs to take over the game in the fourth quarter as fourth-ranked Florida State (7-0, 5-0) rallied to beat #16 Duke (5-2, 2-1) in front of a sold-out night crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium 38-20. FSU is now the lone unbeaten school in the ACC following North Carolina’s loss to Virginia.

Coming into the 4th quarter, Travis had one actual rush for negative four yards back in the first half when he was sacked and fumbled (which FSU recovered). But when it mattered most, Norvell unleashed his star QB’s legs to the tune of seven carries, 68 yards and a touchdown to take complete control of the game.

Jordan’s two-yard run gave FSU its first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter as it trailed or was tied from the get-go. Duke held a ten-point lead (its largest in the series) late in the first quarter before Travis found Caziah Holmes for a seven-yard touchdown pass to cut Duke’s lead 10-7. Jordan would finish the night 27 for 36, 268 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception that ended up being a “pick-six” by Chandler Rivers that extended Duke’s lead 17-7 early in the second quarter.

Coming into the game, the nation was tuned in to see if Duke’s dynamic quarterback, Riley Leonard would play. Leonard, who sustained a high ankle sprain at the end of their heartbreaking loss at home to Notre Dame, was presumed to be out at the beginning of the week. However, he would dress and warm up with the team. When Duke’s offense came out on the field, Leonard was the QB to lead the way. It was clear he was injured, but he was determined to play in this game.

Riley provided spark to the Blue Devils, keeping Duke ahead of the chains, making crucial throws, and scrambling when needed, which lead Duke to taking a 20-17 lead into the half. However, the feel-good story wouldn’t last for long. With seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Leonard was sacked and wrapped up by his ankle which sent him into the ground screaming in pain. FSU would be called for a facemask on that play, but Riley was done.

Leonard tried to convince his coach that he could go back into the game, but Head Coach Mike Elko decided he had seen enough of his QB playing injured.

“He was begging me on the sidelines to come back in,” Elko said in his postgame press conference. “I didn’t feel comfortable with where he was health wise to move back, so we didn’t do it.” Leonard would finish the game 7 for 16, 69 yards and an interception. Backup quarterback Henry Belin IV would come in, but couldn’t do much, including converting a fourth down play with Duke on FSU’s four yard line that would have put Duke up 27-17.

“We didn’t feel like going up six was going to really help us,” Elko said in reference to not kicking the field goal deep in FSU’s red zone. “Their offense is too explosive. We were down there and playing that as a fourth-down situation.”

The play of the game actually came earlier in the evening. After Duke took a 17-7 lead on Rivers’ pick-six, Deuce Spann took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards to the house to breathe new life into a deflated Doak Campbell, and Florida State. Mike Norvell could be heard pregame coaching Spann on the chance he got to run one back.

The matchup of the night was FSU’s top ranked ACC offense vs Duke’s top ranked ACC defense. Duke came into the game having only allowed 13 of the 45 drives it faced from opponents to reach the red zone (28%). The Noles would find out early, and often why Duke was top five in the nation in points allowed (9.83). Duke’s defensive line lived in backfield, short circuiting almost all of FSU’s first half drives that had any momentum to them including stopping FSU on two fourth-and-1 plays to end the Seminoles opening two drives. At the end of the first half, FSU only had 38 total rushing yards (when you factor in tackles for loss and sacks).

However, Florida State would find it footing and take over the game in convincing fashion. FSU, which started the fourth quarter down three, would outscore Duke 21-0 all in the final quarter. 50% of FSU’s drives would make it the red zone with them scoring in all five. Florida State, defense shut out the Blue Devils after halftime, not allowing Duke to score and only reach the red zone once in the second half.

“What a night. So proud of our football team. Their response, everything that we do and train for and how we go to work, it’s for that moment, for that game, for that stage” said Head Coach Mike Norvell. “They showed up, showed incredible heart. They fought back. Great second half.”

Florida State returns to the field next Saturday as they travel to Winston-Salem, NC to take on Wake Forest (4-3, 1-4). FSU has lost three straight to the Demon Deacons. The game is slated for noon on ABC. Tune into Plant The Spear for all your Seminoles Football coverage. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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