Florida State's defense dominates Wake Forest

No. 3 Florida State 59, Wake Forest 3

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Florida State Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield, left, breaks away from Wake Forest kicker Chad Hedlund on the way to a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.  NELL REDMOND/ASSOCIATED PRESS
NELL REDMOND/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Florida State Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield, left, breaks away from Wake Forest kicker Chad Hedlund on the way to a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — No. 3 Florida State finally discovered a defense that can cool off Jameis Winston and the Seminoles’ high-powered offense.

Its own.

Florida State tied a school record with six interceptions, returned turnovers for touchdowns on consecutive plays and gave the offense short fields throughout a 59-3 rout of Wake Forest on Saturday that clinched a spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game for the third time in four years.

Nate Andrews took an interception 56 yards for a touchdown one play before Jalen Ramsey returned a fumble 23 yards for another score, keeping the yardage down but pumping the point total way up.

“For us to be a great team, both (offense and defense) have got to be clicking,” Winston said. “When they’re getting turnovers and scoring touchdowns just like that, sometimes it is hard (to stay in a rhythm) but obviously, I’ve got to do a better job of commanding the team and leading us.”

The Seminoles (9-0, 7-0) claimed the inside track to a BCS championship game berth
with No. 2 Oregon’s loss to Stanford on Thursday night.

They kept firm grasp of it by forcing seven turnovers and breaking the stadium record of 56 points they set in 1994.

“Everything’s falling into place now,” defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said, “like (coach Jimbo Fisher) said it would.”

Winston threw two touchdown passes while leading an offense that gained just 296 total yards – well off its ACC-leading average of 549.

Fisher said the offense “on the day did not play as well” but that was largely because the defense and special teams put up the points and regularly gave the Seminoles short fields.

Florida State held Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5) to 166 total yards and turned those turnovers into five touchdownss and a field goal.

Winston was 17 of 28 for 159 yards in two-plus quarters with an 18-yard TD to Kelvin Benjamin and a 2-yarder to Chad Abram that made it 42-0 at halftime.

James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman had early scoring runs 50 seconds apart. The Seminoles, 35-point favorites, scored their first three touchdowns in a 5:05 span of the first quarter.

Chad Hedlund’s 23-yard field goal with 9:07 left helped the Demon Deacons avoid being shut out for the second straight week and for the third time in four meetings with Florida State.

Kermit Whitfield returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for the TD that gave the Seminoles the BB&T Field scoring record.

Wake Forest’s first two quarterbacks, Tanner Price and Tyler Cameron, combined for six completions and 66 yards passing.

Price threw three interceptions on four attempts before he was pulled. The first two were returned into the red zone and Andrews took the third back for a score.

“Today,” coach Jim Grobe said, “was just a comedy of errors.”

In matching the team record of six interceptions set against Louisville in 1991, Florida State proved there was no Hurricane hangover for these Seminoles after routing rival Miami 41-14 last week.

Now the challenge the rest of the way might be to avoid boredom: Boston College is the only team to either hang within 14 points of the Seminoles or score more than 17 points against them. Nobody has held them to fewer than 41 points, either.

None of their final four opponents entered this week with a winning record.

“If they ever believe in our system, if they ever believe in eliminating the clutter,” Fisher said, “then now is the time.”

They’re headed to the ACC title game for the third time in four years and had little trouble claiming the voter-impressing blowout that kept them in the thick of the national championship race.

After they went 80 yards in 13 plays on their first drive – capped by Wilder’s 5-yard touchdown run that made it 7-0 – the Seminoles ran only four offensive plays while stretching their lead to 35-0.

The Demon Deacons helped them out by giving them short fields with turnovers on four consecutive possessions.

“We were down 35-0, maybe, and I don’t think the defense had hardly been on the field,” Grobe said.

That included a remarkable effort by Edwards, who somehow pulled in the second interception of Price while being bear-hugged by Wake Forest offensive tackle Josh T. Harris.

Winston found Benjamin over the middle for a touchdown two plays later, and the defensive scores came quickly after that.

“We start stopping the offense and turning the ball over, it gives you momentum and it kills their momentum and makes them not want to play anymore,” Edwards said.

Wake Forest, which didn’t advance deeper than the Syracuse 42 in a 13-0 defeat last week and lost go-to receiver Michael Campanaro to a broken collarbone, didn’t get past the Florida State 44 until the fourth quarter.

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