Using four of its longest drives of the season and three touchdown catches from Greg Carr, Florida State churned past Duke 55-24 in front of 21,731 Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Seminoles covered the majority of the field while doing so.
Redshirt freshman Drew Weatherford marched the FSU offense on touchdown drives of 93, 80, and 78 yards before backup Xavier Lee – seeing his most extensive action to date – engineered another protracted drive, an 82-yarder that was capped by a 45-yard touchdown run by Antone Smith.
Both quarterbacks threw a pair of touchdown passes.
"The whole offense did a great job of moving the ball and bouncing back after a loss (at Virginia) last week," Weatherford said. "We had rhythm out there today."
The Seminoles posted points the easy way, as well – a first-quarter fumble and a thwarted fake punt in the third by Duke provided ready-made touchdowns.
Weatherford found Chris Davis for a 23-yard score two plays after Marcus Jones fumbled on Duke's second possession; Lee tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Greg Carr one play after Duke failed to convert on a fake punt from its own 27-yard line.
A season-long 44-yard punt return by Willie Reid provided another highlight and rendered a Gary Cismesia field goal.
"Our defense and special teams set us up real nice on a couple of occasions," Lee said. "When they didn't we still got the job done."
Led by Carr, the day was dominated by true freshmen. Carr, who snared all three of his scores on fade routes, finished with 95 yards on six catches and now has eight touchdowns on the season, two short of tying Warrick Dunn's true freshman record set in 1993.
"I never thought I'd have three touchdowns this entire season, let along three touchdowns in one day," Carr said. "I knew my chances would come, I just didn't know they'd come along this early."
Joining the act was Antone Smith, who added a pair of second-half touchdown runs and led the Seminoles with 78 yards rushing. FSU coach Bobby Bowden turned to the freshman from Pahokee when banged up tailbacks Leon Washington (hip) and Lorenzo Booker (shoulder) were running tentatively.
Smith's 45-yard jaunt to the end zone provided the highlight of the game – the hardnosed runner broke half a dozen tackles and raced down the sideline to paydirt after it appeared that he had been stopped for a loss.
"I was thankful for the opportunity to get in there and do what I do best – run the ball," said Smith, who had just 54 yards rushing coming in. "This freshman class is going to be a special one. We're thankful for the success so far but we know there is a lot of hard work left to do."
Sans two plays, the Seminoles played brilliant defense. Take away a 78-yard run by Re'quan Boyette and a 55-yarder by Ronnie Drummer and Duke managed just 110 total yards.
Boyette (123 yards) and short-yardage specialist Justin Boyle (two touchdowns) paced the Blue Devils, who had narrowed the gap to 24-14 with 7:34 to play in the third quarter.
"I thought it was a good fight," Duke coach Ted Roof said. "We needed to finish some plays to have an impact in the football game."
Weatherford – the ACC's passing leader – completed 24-of-32 passes and finished with 276 yards, his sixth straight passing performance of 200 yards or greater. The nation's most prolific passer led FSU to over 500 total yards for the fourth time this season.
Reid and Booker added six receptions apiece for the Seminoles, who host Maryland next weekend.
Duke Downed 55-24
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