Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hungry Duke seeks to stop Florida State in ACC title game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Duke coach David Cutcliffe walked off the field after the Belk Bowl on Dec. 27, he had no idea how important that double-digit loss to Cincinnati would turn out to be.

In the immediate aftermath, his team was devastated and demoralized — which turned into serious motivation for improvement.

Nearly one year later, No. 20 Duke returns to that same field, Bank of America Stadium, to play No. 1 Florida State in tonight's ACC title game.

In retrospect, it is a direct correlation to that loss, Cutcliffe said.

"We were irritated in that we felt like we were the best-prepared team in that game and didn't win," Cutcliffe said of the 48-34 defeat. "The theme, I would call it hungry. I would much rather have won it for those seniors and all of us.

"But if you didn't win it, we needed something good to come from it. And I think it did."

The Seminoles' road to the title game has been much different. They ended last season with a 31-10 victory against Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl and have continued to win. That included a three-week span starting in November during which allegations of sexual assault against quarterback Jameis Winston brought intense national scrutiny.

With Thursday's decision by the State Attorney's Office not to file criminal charges against Winston, Duke (10-2, 6-2 ACC) is the only remaining obstacle on the Seminoles' path to the BCS title game.

However, coach Jimbo Fisher and his players say they refuse to focus on anything but Duke.

"That's something on our team that we do a great job of; just taking it day by day, not getting ahead of ourselves," center Bryan Stork said. "We've just got to stay focused and take it, literally, one play at a time."

Said Fisher: "We're happy to be where we're at, but we also know that we're not thinking about (the national title game) right now. What we're thinking about is running through the finish line.

"When you run the 100-meter dash, being No. 1 at the 90-meter mark doesn't mean anything. We have to keep our form, stay true to form — and the way we practice and prepare I think we will — and be able to run through the finish line to be No. 1 at the end of the regular season and then go into the bowl games."

Tonight's game, in many ways, is the quintessential David vs. Goliath matchup.

FSU (12-0, 8-0) is the first ACC team ranked No. 1 in the BCS since the Seminoles in the 1999 season's final standings It has scored 40 or more against every opponent but one (37-7 against Florida in the finale).

Duke, a 29-point underdog, is 0-12 against top-ranked teams and 0-18 against FSU. It lost at home 58-55 to Pitt, a team the Seminoles beat 41-13 on the road.

"Duke football has been the underdogs ever since I've gotten here," redshirt senior guard David Harding said. "We embrace that role. We're working to change that, obviously. But we know that we have a great challenge playing the No. 1 team in the country, and we know that nobody is going to give us a chance to win.

"Really that's just business as usual for Duke football."

The odds favor FSU, but Fisher said Duke presents a challenge that will require its "A" game. Its two-quarterback combo of Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette have combined to pass for 2,905 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Cutcliffe said he has been honest with his players about tonight's challenge, but he knows they won't shy away from it.

"I don't think any of our guys are putting us down as 29-point underdogs," he said.

"We have smart guys — as you might imagine — and they're very aware of the challenge. What they see is the quality of the team on tape. It's not unrealistic to say that we've got to play extremely well. I've had the good fortune through the years to play some No. 1 teams in this profession. Some of them looked like No. 1 teams. Some of them don't. Florida State certainly is. So it's a huge challenge."

Antonya English can be reached at

ACC championship

No. 1 FSU vs. No. 20 Duke,

8 tonight, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C. TV/radio: Ch. 28; 820-AM, 620-AM

Line: FSU by 29

Hungry Duke seeks to stop Florida State in ACC title game 12/06/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 6, 2013 10:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  3. Matt Peca making case for Lightning spot


    Center Matt Peca said he didn't read too much into the fact he was the only Lightning player to appear in each of the first three exhibition games.

    But Peca, 24, loved it.

    Matt Peca won nine of 10 faceoffs Friday, a skill the Lightning badly needs.
  4. Bucs players respond to Trump comments on anthem protests


    President Donald Trump shared his thoughts Friday night on NFL players protesting during the national anthem, suggesting that NFL owners should "fire" players who kneel during the anthem in protest. His remarks are alreading drawing responses from many NFL players, including some Bucs.

    Bucs players Mike Evans and Jameis Winston stand with coach Dirk Koetter during the national anthem in a game played in San Diego last season.
  5. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    Catcher Wilson Ramos connects for a two-run single in the fifth inning against the Cubs on Sept. 20, 2017.