Game ball: Seeing as Jimbo Fisher prefers to talk about the running tandem of Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers as a single entity, it seems only fitting that the two should share player-of-the-game honors for their efforts against Duke. Not only did Patrick and Akers do most of the heavy lifting in the Seminoles’ 17-10 victory, but they also might have offered a glimpse at FSU’s offensive identity for the rest of the season.
With a true freshman quarterback and a banged-up receiving corps, a run-heavy approach may suit the Seminoles well. Patrick and Akers have shown themselves to be near-perfect complements for each other, and, as a result, FSU has posted a season-high rushing total in each of its last four games.
While Akers grabbed the headlines with a 42-yard touchdown run, the Seminoles likely wouldn’t have been in that position had it not been for Patrick’s contributions earlier in the game.
The big junior picked up three third-down conversions as part of his 18-carry, 98-yard day, and he consistently made life miserable for the Blue Devils by absorbing contact, keeping his legs moving and picking up yardage where there appeared to be none.
“They keep playing off each other,” Fisher said. “Cam made the big run and Cam is playing outstanding football. They both are. I’m tickled to death with those two, the way they’re playing football.”
Play of the game: Akers has been knocking on the door for his first touchdown for the last few weeks. On Saturday, he kicked that door down in emphatic fashion with a 42-yard scamper down the right sideline that broke a 10-10 tie and delivered a welcome victory for the Seminoles.
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The play was a fine example of what makes Akers so effective. He used his strength to break through the line of scrimmage, then flashed some athleticism to cut back to his right, change directions and shed a would-be tackler. Finally, Akers turned on his breakaway speed to outrun the Duke defense and run untouched into the end zone.
“Their young back – I said it this week – is special,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
“That was huge,” Fisher added. “We were just so close to those big plays… they just have to keep grinding and making those plays. That was a huge play, on third down, that cutback he made.”
Fullback Johnathan Vickers also deserves credit for cancelling out Duke defender Bryon Fields Jr. and paving the way for Akers to break free.
“He’s a great fullback for us,” Patrick said. “He makes plays when his name is called. Especially in the run game.”
Turning point: With Florida State holding on to its seven-point lead and preparing to punt from its 20-yard line late in the fourth quarter, sophomore punter Logan Tyler delivered the punt of his life – a 61-yarder that flipped the field and then some, landing at the Duke 19. It was the longest punt of Tyler’s career and severely hindered the Blue Devils’ comeback bid by taking away potentially good field position.
Duke went three-and-out on the ensuing drive and punted, which allowed the Seminoles to drain nearly two minutes off the clock before giving the ball back to the Blue Devils for one final drive.
Tyler this year is averaging 42.1 yards per punt — which is nearly a two-yard improvement from last season — and has 10 punts of 50-plus yards.
It was over when: A season full of frantic final minutes had one more on Saturday, when Duke drove the Seminoles’ 30-yard line with 10 seconds to play.
But, a week removed from a heartbreaking, late loss to Miami, FSU’s defense answered the bell as Tarvarus McFadden and Ermon Lane teamed up to knock away quarterback Daniel Jones’ throw into the end zone as time expired.
The Seminoles used a few key plays to put the clock in their favor on Duke’s final drive. Junior defensive end Josh Sweat sacked Jones on a first down at the Duke 36. With the Blue Devils out of timeouts, the clock kept moving for nearly 30 seconds. A few moments later, Kyle Meyers managed to bring a Duke defender down inbounds at the 30, which caused the Blue Devils to lose an extra 20 seconds.