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Florida State reserves spot in championship game

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Florida State just wanted to get back where the Seminoles believe they belong.

That's what they've done by winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and landing in position to win a national title.

"We're trying to put ourselves back where we're supposed to be," linebacker Telvin Smith said.

Quarterback Jameis Winston threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score as top-ranked Florida State wore out No. 20 Duke, winning 45-7 in the ACC championship game on Saturday night and locking up a spot to play for a national title.

There was little suspense at Bank of America Stadium, with Florida State capturing its 14th ACC championship.

"An undefeated championship, that hasn't happened in a long time," Winston said, referring to his school.

The Seminoles (13-0), who are the only unbeaten team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, will most certainly head to the BCS national championship game. That will become official on Sunday.

"It means we're back to being consistent again," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "The goal is to be conference champion so the next goal can be achieved. ... I knew this was a special, special group of guys."

Duke's next stop after its first appearance in the ACC championship game should be an upper-tier bowl, perhaps the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Atlanta. A victory would have sent the Blue Devils (10-3) to the Orange Bowl.

"Obviously disappointed in the result of the game," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "Not disappointed in our effort."

Winston bolstered his Heisman Trophy candidacy after a slow start, but that seemed far from his mind after slicing up Duke.

"Our team is trying to make history," said Winston, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player. "It's not about stats."

Linebacker Telvin Smith's third-quarter interception at the Duke 27 set up Winston's 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kenny Shaw.

He threw a scoring strike of 54 yards to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin later in the quarter before making a 17-yard touchdown run to push the margin to 38-0.

Winston completed 19 of 32 passes for 330 yards. He was intercepted twice by freshman cornerback Breon Borders.

Two days earlier, prosecutors announced in Tallahassee, Fla., that they wouldn't press charges against Winston stemming from an investigation in a sexual assault case.

Florida State running back Devonta Freeman gained 91 yards on 18 carries, including a 7-yard touchdown run with 7:25 left.

The Blue Devils, playing in their home state but in front of an overwhelmingly pro-Florida State crowd, couldn't puncture the Seminoles' stout defense.

"We didn't take advantage of that opportunity," Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder said. "(With a 0-0 score) after the first quarter, we felt we were playing pretty well."

Of Duke's first eight possessions, only one lasted more than three plays.

Quarterback Anthony Boone completed 20 of 40 passes for 138 yards (with 49 of those in the waning minutes).

"We couldn't find a rhythm," Boone said. "It takes an efficient game and we weren't efficient."

Florida State was in line to secure its second shutout of the season until Duke scored on running back Josh Snead's 5-yard run with 1:01 to play.

It took awhile for the Seminoles to produce much before creating a 17-0 halftime lead.

Florida State fumbled inside the Duke 5-yard line on its second possession and Duke safety Jeremy Cash recovered.

From there, Duke drove 67 yards on 15 plays but came up empty when kicker Ross Martin was wide right on a 48-yard field-goal attempt.

Florida State was scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season.

That didn't last long because Winston connected with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a 14-yard touchdown play with 12:36 remaining in the half. Benjamin, despite double coverage, made a diving catch near the side of the end zone.

Crowder's 40-yard punt return to the Florida State 37 went for naught when quarterback Anthony Boone's pass was intercepted three plays later by cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.

Florida State increased its lead to 14-0 on running back Karlos Williams' 12-yard run with 3:37 to go in the half.

It was 17-0 after kicker Robert Aguayo's 45-yard field goal 25 seconds before halftime. That gave Aguayo 143 points this season, setting an ACC record for a kicker.

NOTES: QB Jameis Winston of Florida State has 38 touchdown passes for the season. That set an ACC record for touchdown passes held previously by quarterback Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Winston also broke the Football Bowl Subdivision record for touchdown passes thrown by a freshman. ... Florida State has won three of the nine ACC championship games. This was its fourth appearance in the title tilt. ... It was the first scoreless first quarter in the nine-year history of the ACC championship game. ... The Seminoles won all 19 meetings against Duke. ... WR Jamison Crowder set the Duke season record for receiving yards when he built his 2013 total to 1,150 with two receptions in the first quarter. ... Duke S Dwayne Norman was ejected with 8:01 remaining for targeting with the helmet. ... Duke, which has a school-record 10 wins, became the second of the four North Carolina-based schools in the ACC to reach the conference championship game. Wake Forest won in 2006. ... Florida State will play in a bowl game for the 32nd consecutive season. ... Duke will be in a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.
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