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Florida State not sharp but good enough to beat South Florida

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- Even with a sea of garnet in the stands at Raymond James Stadium, fourth-ranked Florida State couldn't quite make itself at home in its first game away from Doak Campbell Stadium.

With South Florida's possession-oriented offense focused on keeping FSU's offense on the sidelines, the Seminoles used an efficient performance from EJ Manuel and a defensive touchdown from linebacker Christian Jones to pull away from the Bulls for a 30-17 victory.

The win moves the Seminoles to 5-0 for the first time since the 2005 season. They'll shoot for their first 6-0 start since their 1999 national title season next week at North Carolina State.

"Wins are big," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "You go into somebody else's house that have good players and are coached well, and you come out with a 'W.' That's still a huge step coming off the big win we had last week (against Clemson)."

Manuel finished 19 of 26 for 242 yards and a touchdown. His 47-yard completion to Kenny Shaw on third-and-11 led to a Dustin Hopkins field goal that made it 23-10 with 34 seconds to play in the third quarter.

On USF's ensuing drive, quarterback B.J. Daniels was forced out for one play with an injury and FSU took advantage. Defensive end Cornellis Carradine chased down backup Matt Floyd and forced a fumble that was scooped up and returned 12 yards for a touchdown by Jones.

It was Jones' first touchdown since his high school days.

"We practice scoop-and-score, so I was prepared for it," Jones said with a smile. "When I saw the ball pop out, I was ready to pick it up and run with it."

Trailing 13-3 after the first half, the Bulls threatened to flip the game on its head by forcing a three-and-out on FSU's first drive of the third quarter, then blocking the subsequent punt and recovering at the 9-yard line before scoring on a B.J. Daniels touchdown run three plays later.

FSU, though, answered later in the quarter with a seven-play, 63-yard scoring drive that culminated in Manuel's one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Haplea.

Florida State's defense seized control of the game in the middle two quarters. After surrendering 144 yards to the Bulls in the first quarter, FSU clamped down and allowed just 40 yards and one first down in the second and third periods. Linebacker Christian Jones ended the third quarter by picking up a fumble and racing 12 yards into the end zone to give the Seminoles a 30-10 lead.

Daniels led the Bulls on a six-play, 73-yard touchdown drive to begin the fourth quarter, but the Bulls couldn't get any closer.

"It wasn't anything they were doing," Daniels said. "It was executing and us doing the little things we needed to do to move the ball down the field. We just missed some opportunities there."

Using a variety of runs and short passes, USF kept the ball for more than 10 minutes and limited FSU to just nine offensive plays in the first quarter.

The Seminoles' offense warmed up in the second, but the Bulls still went into halftime within striking distance at 13-3.

Florida State's 13 halftime points were its fewest of the season. The Seminoles came into the game averaging 32 first-half points in their first four contests.

USF received the opening kick and marched into the red zone with ease, but the Bulls stalled at the FSU 15-yard line and grabbed the lead on Maikon Bonani's 32-yard field goal.

Florida State's Karlos Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the USF 37-yard line, and the Seminoles were in the end zone five plays later when Rashad Greene took an end-around 10 yards for the score.

The Bulls succeeded for a while in keeping FSU's offense off the field, but failed to score any more points of their own. USF's next offensive drives consumed 20 plays, but both ended in punts.

Dustin Hopkins added field goals of 26 and 43 yards to extend FSU's lead to 13-3, but he also pushed a 48-yard attempt wide right.

"A heck of a football game, wasn't it?" Bulls coach Skip Holtz said. "Florida State did the things they had to do to come out with a win, but I'm proud of our team; proud of the way they competed, the way they played together, the way they hung in there."

NOTES: With his 10-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter, Rashad Greene became the first Seminole since Peter Warrick in 1999 to score a touchdown rushing, receiving and on a punt return in the same season. Greene has four total touchdowns this season ... Senior Everett Dawkins' sack of B.J. Daniels in the second quarter was the first recorded by an FSU defensive tackle this season. Dawkins is the only current FSU defensive player to have started the 2009 USF-FSU game ... Saturday marked FSU's 10th game in Tampa but the first since 1979. The Seminoles are 9-1 all-time in the city.
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