The outcome represented more than another vanquished victim in the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the Florida State Seminoles, Saturday's 59-20 victory over Duke was also a fight for returning to form.
The Seminoles kept their perfect ACC record intact and secured control of the conference race and the league's automatic bowl berth in either the Orange, Sugar or Cotton.
But the Seminoles also put points on the scoreboard at the dizzying pace for which they have become known in recent seasons.
And that probably was more important to the Seminoles than the ACC record.
"I wasn't in the mood to play them easy," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "We needed some success offensively."
The Seminoles were showered with it on a cool afternoon before 73,899 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
They achieved their second-best offensive output of the season with 620 total yards. Quarterback Danny Kanell threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Kez McCorvey caught 10 passes for 207 yards. Tailback Warrick Dunn rushed eight times for 89 yards.
During a wild second quarter, FSU scored 32 points with five scoring drives that averaged only 49 seconds _ just like the old days when the fastbreak offense made Charlie Ward famous and helped FSU cruise to easy victories.
"The offense was clicking pretty good," said receiver 'OMar Ellison, who caught the first touchdown passes of his career for 24 and 36 yards from Kanell and finished with five receptions for 122 yards. "Danny was making the proper reads at the right time. That's all we needed to come around."
The ninth-ranked Seminoles improved to 6-1 and 6-0 in the ACC while handing the 16th-ranked Blue Devils (7-1) their first defeat.
The victory was FSU's 22nd in a row since joining the league in 1992, breaking the record of 21 set by Maryland from 1973 to 1977.
With N.C. State's loss to North Carolina on Saturday, FSU is the only unbeaten team in ACC play. The Seminoles can clinch a tie for the conference title Saturday with a victory over Georgia Tech.
Other than a brief period in the second quarter _ when James Colzie's fumbled punt was returned 7 yards for a touchdown by Duke's Tijan Redmon to cut FSU's lead to 14-6 _ there was barely a tense moment in the game.
The Seminoles led 38-6 at halftime and had 434 yards of offense. Duke had only 45. The Blue Devil offense did not cross midfield until late in the third quarter.
"That's called totally shutting somebody down," FSU linebacker Todd Rebol said. "That completely knocks the steam out of a team."
Duke quarterback Spence Fischer could complete only 2 of 14 passes in the first half for 12 yards, although he did finish with two touchdown passes. But for the game, he threw two interceptions. Duke quarterbacks were sacked six times.
"I was surprised how fast they were," Fischer said. "They had me rattled. The way we played, they are head and shoulders above everyone in the league. Their speed is amazing."
"We were shellshocked," Duke coach Fred Goldsmith said.
It could have been worse. The Seminoles failed to score after Rebol intercepted a pass, giving FSU a first down at the Duke 18. And safety Devin Bush's interception at the Duke 27 also resulted in no points.
Yet the Seminoles had plenty to spare. In addition to Ellison's two touchdown receptions, Andre Cooper caught a 6-yarder for FSU's first score, and fullback Zack Crockett had three touchdowns on short bursts. Dunn scored on a 32-yard run, Dan Mowrey kicked a 28-yard field goal and backup quarterback Thad Busby scored from 1 yard out.
That type of game could not have come at a better time for Kanell, whose poor performances against Miami and Clemson had Bowden considering a quarterback change.
But Kanell responded by completing 23 of 41 passes without an interception. His 62-yard completion to McCorvey _ which set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Crockett in the second quarter _ was FSU's longest play of the season.
"It's been a tough few weeks," Kanell said. "I've learned a lot. You can't get too low with the adversity or too high with success. But for me, this was a prayer answered."
Kanell was especially adept at picking up blitzes, which Duke had mastered in earlier games.
"We've got too many weapons," Ellison said. "You can't blitz against us. They apparently didn't do their homework."
The Blue Devils were 7-0 for the first time since 1941 and 4-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1970. Under first-year coach Goldsmith, Duke made a drastic turnaround from a 3-8 season in 1993, playing solid defense and ball-control offense.
But for the first time this season, the Blue Devils allowed a first-quarter touchdown. And although the ACC's leading rusher, Robert Baldwin, gained 96 yards on 22 carries, most of it came in the second half when Duke was well out of the game.
"We got fed up because the Wake Forest coach insulted us," said FSU cornerback Corey Fuller of Jim Caldwell, who said FSU might have a tough time against Duke. "We had to show them we're still the football team in the ACC."
The Seminoles converted a few more into believers Saturday.
"The rest of the league is competitive, but not like this," Fischer said. "Until someone can compete with their speed, it's going to be a while before they lose."