DURHAM, N.C. -- EJ Manuel threw for 239 yards and two touchdowns to help Florida State beat Duke 41-16 on Saturday, giving the Seminoles their first win in a month.
Manuel had three completions of at least 50 yards in the first quarter, including a perfectly thrown 50-yard scoring toss deep over the middle to Rodney Smith. Manuel followed with a 51-yard throw out of his own end zone to Kenny Shaw on the next drive, which ended with Devonta Freeman's 10-yard touchdown run that helped the Seminoles (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) jump ahead 24-3, barely a minute into the second quarter.
Florida State had no trouble holding that lead, snapping a three-game losing streak with its first victory since a 62-10 romp over Charleston Southern on Sept. 10. The Seminoles also improved to 17-0 all-time against the Blue Devils (3-3, 1-1).
Duke had won three straight games to build some optimism in David Cutcliffe's fourth season. But this game ended up looking a lot like every other trip the Seminoles have made to Wallace Wade Stadium since joining the ACC two decades ago -- with the Blue Devils failing to make it to the end zone until the fourth quarter when the outcome was all but decided.
Manuel also ran for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 3-yard scoring pass to Nick O'Leary midway through the third quarter gave Florida State its largest lead at 34-3, then he answered a pair of touchdowns from the Blue Devils by scoring on a 6-yard keeper with 9:49 left. That made it 41-16, giving the Seminoles at least 40 points in all seven trips to Durham.
Strange as it sounds, FSU desperately needed to beat Duke to regroup. The Seminoles entered the year with hopes of contending for a national championship only to see them dashed by the end of September.
They beat overmatched opponents in their first two games and stood at No. 5 nationally heading into a home game with then-No. 1 Oklahoma. But Manuel sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter of that 23-13 loss, then missed the loss at Clemson before returning after the off week as a reserve at Wake Forest.
Manuel completed 19 of 35 throws for 286 yards and two scores, but he threw two interceptions as part of the Seminoles' five turnovers in last week's 35-30 loss that dropped them out of the rankings.
At least now Florida State has a conference win to build on.