Sept 1, 2001
By DAVID DROSCHAK
AP Sports Writer
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Organized chaos gave way to a typical Florida State blowout Saturday night.
Chris Rix eased into the post-Chris Weinke era with two touchdown passes and the No. 6 Seminoles blocked two punts for scores to beat Duke 55-13.
The Seminoles spotted the Blue Devils an early touchdown in the season opener for both teams, then clamped down on defense and made a pair of special team plays in the second quarter that turned the game around.
It’s a good thing, because coach Bobby Bowden was upset in the first quarter by an offense that didn’t appear to be on the same page.
“If ya’ll knew what we were trying to do out there, and then what actually happened, you would say we don’t have any sense at all,” said the 71-year-old Bowden, who won his 316th game.
“In the first quarter, if there were 20 plays, 12 of them looked like something we had never practiced. I was thinking, `Bowden, you’ve got a new coordinator up there, you’ve got another quarterback coach and we’re not communicating, we’re not getting the point to that kid out there.”‘
In the end talent won out as the Seminoles broke in more than a dozen new starters and their defense limited Duke to 226 total yards and just nine first downs.
Rix wore Weinke’s No. 16, but his performance at quarterback was average in his first start replacing last year’s Heisman Trophy winner. Weinke, now the starting QB for the Carolina Panthers, threw for a school-record 536 yards against the Blue Devils in a 63-14 win last year.
The Seminoles scored 31 points by the half, but Rix had just 93 yards and finished 9-of-18 for 135 yards throwing to a depleted group of receivers. His TD passes of 26 and 33 yards came after Florida State already had a big lead.
“I finished much better than I started,” Rix said. “Hopefully I can start games like that rather than waiting to get the momentum and get the tempo going. I didn’t finish perfect and there are things I need to improve on, but that touchdown pass was a good thing to end on.”
Bowden replaced Rix late in the third quarter with the Seminoles up by 39 and en route to their 13th straight season-opening victory. Florida State also improved to 71-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference games.
Florida State, normally a pass-happy team that led the nation in scoring and total offense a season ago, started the game with two tight ends, didn’t use its no-huddle offense and mostly stuck to the ground to try to get Rix comfortable.
The freshman was off the mark early and was short on some deep routes as the Blue Devils hung close for 18 minutes before dropping their 13th straight – the nation’s longest losing streak.
Florida State’s defense blew a coverage in the first quarter to allow Chris Douglas to race 78 yards with a short pass as Duke went up 6-0.
After Florida State’s second delay-of-game penalty in three series, Bowden encouraged Rix on the bench as the signal-caller had nothing to show but a 1-for-4 start.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Rix completed his best pass of the first half – a 23-yard slant – on his next series as the Seminoles closed to 6-3.
Duke’s freshman punter then ran into trouble early in the second quarter as the Blue Devils missed All-America kicker Brian Morton, who averaged 42.6 yards in four seasons.
Trey McDonald fumbled a perfect snap deep in his own territory, and after a wild scramble for the ball, Michael Boulware came up with it at the Duke 2. William McCray scored on the next play to start Florida State’s big quarter.
“Whatever momentum we had we decided to give it right back to them,” Duke coach Carl Franks said.
After holding Duke on three plays, Jerome Carter blocked McDonald’s next punt. The ball bounced once and then right into Carter’s hands as he raced in from 12 yards out and the rout was on.
“The goal for all the freshmen who came on the trip was to play our hearts out and show people why Florida State signed us,” said Carter, one of several first-year players who shined.
Maddox showed his speed on a 51-yard run as he got a good downfield block by P.K. Sam to cap off the scoring burst.
The junior then caught the first career TD pass by Rix, a 26-yarder over the middle.
“I felt like the North Carolina people thought he had been lost in the shuffle, so I was so glad to see him do what he did,” Bowden said.
A mock cheer went up from the Duke fans late in the third quarter when McDonald got off a punt without it being blocked.
Duke has lost 16 straight games to ranked teams dating to 1994 and is 3-62 in its last 65.
“We can give ourselves a great chance to a bunch of games if we don’t go out there and give the other team easy opportunities,” said Franks, whose team held the Seminoles to 389 total yards.