Jameis Winston threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score and No. 1 Florida State stormed into the championship game with a 45-7 victory over 20th-ranked Duke on Saturday night in the ACC championship game.
The Heisman Trophy favorite was 19 of 32 for 330 yards and set FBS freshman records for TD passes and yards passing in a season two days after prosecutors decided not to press charges against him in a sexual assault case.
Winston threw two touchdown passes to 6-foot-5, 234-pound receiver Kelvin Benjamin and ran for a 17-yard score to overcome two interceptions.
Florida State’s defense was dominant, holding Duke (10-3) to 239 yards and forcing three turnovers to help the Seminoles (13-0) win their second straight ACC title.
It was Florida State’s 12th win by at least 27 points. The Seminoles entered as 29-point favorites after outscoring its opponents by an average of 43 points. Florida State outgained Duke 569-239. Winston struggled early with overthrowing receivers and the Seminoles failed to score in the first quarter for the first time this season. Florida State’s first scoring opportunity ended when Devonta Freeman coughed up the ball at the Duke 3 following a 22-yard run.
But it wouldn’t matter. Florida State slowly took charge in the second quarter and built a 17-0 halftime lead behind a stifling defense that forced Duke to go three-and-out on seven of its eight first-half possessions.
Winston got the Seminoles on the board early in the second quarter when he found Benjamin for a 14-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone. Karlos Williams bowled over two defenders on a 12-yard touchdown inside run to make it 14-0 after Lamarcus Joyner intercepted Duke quarterback Anthony Boone’s pass. Florida State outgained Duke 268-94 in the first half.
The onslaught continued in the second half with Winston hooking up on a 54-yard touchdown reception with Benjamin, who showed he’s not only big but can move too after blowing by defenders. He finished with 119 yards receiving.
Freeman ran for 91 yards and a touchdown and Williams had 59 yards on the ground. Winston, a redshirt freshman, was far from perfect.
He threw two interceptions and also made a bad decision on a shovel pass as he falling to the ground. The ball hit linebacker Kelby Brown in the hands, but he couldn’t corral the ill-advised pass.
There was a heated moment midway through the fourth quarter when Winston took exception to what he felt was a late hit on the Blue Devils after he released a pass.
Duke’s only points came with 1:01 left when Josh Snead scored on a 5-yard run. With their decisive win over Duke, the Seminoles will face Auburn in the BCS national championship game. There will be something for everyone.
For fans who like offense, they’ll get to see an FSU team that’s second nationally in scoring at 53 points a game and sixth in total offense at 529.4 yards. Auburn is 11th in both scoring and offense, at 40.2 points and 505.3 yards, respectively.
Fans who hanker for an explosive running back will be treated to Auburn’s Tre Mason, who’s coming off his 304-yard outing against Missouri in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Mason is averaging just under 125 yards to rank 10th and the Nick Marshall-quarterbacked Tigers lead the nation at 335.7.
You want defense? Mason will be going against a Seminoles unit that’s giving up a tad under 117 yards rushing, has surrendered fewer than 100 on the ground in three straight games and has allowed a nation-low five rushing touchdowns.
If you like lots of balls in the air, the Seminoles will oblige. Heisman Trophy favorite Jameis Winston is completing 68 percent of his passes for 294 yards a game and his 38 touchdowns are second most in the FBS.
Auburn’s weakness is stopping the pass. Missouri was the fourth opponent to throw for more than 300 yards against Auburn. Auburn is 102nd against the pass, allowing 259 yards.