CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s been a season of firsts for No. 20 Duke, and yet another one came in its first ACC championship game — when it shut out No. 1 Florida State.
For a quarter.
It was all Seminoles after that.
The Blue Devils couldn’t stop Heisman Trophy favorite Jameis Winston and couldn’t do much when it counted against Florida State’s tough defense in a 45-7 loss Saturday night that snapped their eight-game winning streak.
“We didn’t play up to our Duke standards,” defensive end Kenny Anunike said.
Winston threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to give the slow-starting Seminoles (13-0) their second straight league title.
They failed to score in the first quarter for the first time this season, then put this one out of reach in a hurry while turning each of Duke’s three turnovers into touchdowns.
“We felt like we were moving the ball pretty good, 0-0 after the end of the first quarter,” receiver Jamison Crowder said. “After that, things just kind of went the other way.”
Anthony Boone was 20 of 40 for 138 yards but threw two interceptions and fumbled once for the Blue Devils (10-3).
“We’ll definitely be back here next year,” Boone said. “I promise you that.”
They averaged nearly 395 total yards and 32.2 points during the best season in school history, but finished with 239 yards. Josh Snead’s 5-yard touchdown run with 1:01 left kept them from being shut out for the first time since 2008.
Just making it to the championship game was a big deal for Duke, which was picked in the preseason to finish last in the Coastal Division.
This is the same program that from 1996-2007 went winless four times and finished with one win in two other years. Until this year, the Blue Devils’ last nine-win season came in 1941 and they have long since wrapped up the first consecutive bowl berths in school history.
But they certainly expected a better showing in their most important game of the year.
“There’s a process involved in all of this, and there’s no atmosphere like conference championship atmosphere,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “I’m glad they have experienced it. I hate the fact that it was experienced in such a manner where the loss hurt, but maybe that hurt propels you forward.”
Added Anunike: “This doesn’t define our season.”
This one got away after they failed to take advantage of any of the few early mistakes the Seminoles made.
Duke forced two turnovers in the first half, got a 40-yard punt return from Crowder and twice advanced inside the Florida State 35 — and came away with nothing to show for it.
While falling behind 17-0 at halftime, the Blue Devils managed 94 total yards — and 67 of them came on the one drive that wasn’t a three-and-out or worse.
That drive ended with Ross Martin’s missed 47-yard field goal that sailed wide right — and that wound up being the closest they came to scoring before the outcome had been decided.
“You’ve got to answer early, try to get some momentum because they’ve got a great defense that can put people away,” Boone said. “And of course, their offense can score at will. You’ve just kind of got to get points when you can and try to catch a rhythm. We missed points and didn’t get a rhythm going.”
They blew another chance with about 10 minutes left in the half after Crowder’s punt return to the Florida State 33. Three plays later, Boone’s pass for Crowder was picked off by Lamarcus Joyner.
Florida State (13-0) scored its second touchdown — Karlos Williams’ 12-yard scoring run that made it 14-0 — off the interception.
The Seminoles added an 11-yard Winston-to-Kenny Shaw TD off of Boone’s second interception, and Winston ran 17 yards for a score four plays after Boone’s fumble.