Nov. 9, 2013
By: @BrandonMellor, Seminoles.com Managing Editor
WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- How did No. 2 Florida State respond after being handed control of its own national-championship destiny Thursday night? It's defense delivered an ACC Atlantic Division title Saturday at Wake Forest.
FSU will have to win its next four games to punch a ticket to Pasadeana, but in a 59-3 walloping of Wake Forest at BB&T Field, the Seminoles (9-0, 7-0 ACC) used a dominating defense to at least guarantee itself a trip to Charlotte and the chance to defend its conference crown come Dec. 7.
The Seminoles were so good defensively against the Demon Deacons (4-6, 2-5) that Heisman Trophy hopeful Jameis Winston and his high-powered offense were merely an afterthought in the drubbing. From a statistical standpoint, the victory won't turn any heads -- Winston threw for a career-low 159 yards in a little more than two quarters of play (but did set the ACC freshman record passing touchdowns in a season with his 25th and 26th of the season) and the `Noles generated a season low 296 total yards -- but the team did extend the school record of consecutive games scoring at least 40 points to nine.
The offense didn't have to be its usual special self. Instead, the defense, which rested its starters after the first drive of the second half but still forced seven total turnovers, was spectacular enough for both
"[The defense] played a hell of a game," FSU wide receiver Rashad Greene said.
FSU tied a school record in the blowout with six interceptions, matching a mark that had been set against Louisville in 1991. The Seminoles had 107 interception return yards with one score while Wake Forest only had 166 total yards of offense.
Starting in place of injured starter Terrence Brooks (concussion), rookie Nate Andrews shone brightest in star-studded defensive showing. Andrews finished with two interceptions -- one of which he took back 56 yards for FSU's first defensive score -- and then forced a fumble that was scooped and scored by fellow freshman Jalen Ramsey that gave the Seminoles a 35-0 second-quarter lead.
Andrews now leads the team with four interceptions this season.
"Nate has been surprising us and he's been doing a good job so far," FSU senior linebacker Christian Jones. "We are looking forward to seeing him keep improving; he's a good player. He had a big game. We prepare for situations when some guys go down and we have younger guys that can step in if something happens.
"And Nate Andrews capitalized on this opportunity."
He wasn't the only one to make an impact Saturday.
Jones also had a hand in the turnover party, smashing Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price in the first quarter and forcing an errant pass that was intercepted by Mario Edwards, Jr.
Jones then intercepted Demon Deacons backup quarterback Tyler Cameron on the first and only play the first-team defense would play in the second half.
Edwards, Jr.'s interception gave FSU the ball on Wake Forest's 27-yard line and two plays later resulted in an 18-yard Kelvin Benjamin score that padded the `Noles' lead at 21-0 after two Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. scoring runs put the visitor on top for good earlier. Jones' interception gave FSU the ball at the Wake Forest five-yard line and was immediately followed by a short Karlos Williams touchdown run that extended the Seminoles' advantage to 49-0.
Short fields and quick scores for the FSU offense.
"That's something we always talk about doing is getting a lot of turnovers," Jones said. "It worked out in our favor today."
Reggie Northrup led the way with eight tackles and a half tackle for loss for the Atlantic Division champs. Timmy Jernigan and E.J. Levenberry both had six stops and Demonte McAllister and Lamarcus Joyner had four tackles apiece.
FSU limited the Demon Deacons to 2.6 yards per play and just five third-down conversions on 17 attempts.
"It was talked about a little bit," Edwards, Jr. said, when asked about any national championship chatter before Saturday's game," but Jimbo [Fisher] just said that's part of the clutter. We have to get rid of that and just focus one game at a time. Everybody is putting the clutter to the side and we are doing just what we've been doing the past eight weeks, just going out and playing assignment-sound football."
Offensively, Greene hauled in five of Winston's passes for 47 yards while Nick O'Leary and Karlos Williams each had three grabs. One of Williams catches came from Jacob Coker, who replaced Winston early in the third quarter. Chad Abram caught Winston's second touchdown toss.
Rookie wide recover Levonte Whitfield didn't get involved in the offense but that didn't stop him from updating the scoreboard. His 97-yard special-teams touchdown in the fourth quarter was Florida State's first kick return score since 2008.
The Seminoles now return to Doak Campbell Stadium to host Syracuse next weekend at 3:30 p.m. and honor the 20th anniversary of the program's 1993 national championship. Tickets to that game can be purchased by clicking the graphic below.