Tailgaters soaked up the sun, bands played at halftime, and ABC was here to beam the festivities to a regional television audience. Those were among the reasons for calling this opener a game.
Call it no contest.
Florida State 70, Duke 26.
Sure, it counted, and for the No. 1-ranked Seminoles Saturday's slaughter before 51,200 at the Citrus Bowl certainly shows what kind of offensive firepower will be on display this season.
FSU might have been better off playing a scrimmage against its own defense. Then again, maybe not, for this game also pointed out some glaring defensive deficiencies.
The Seminoles scored their most points ever in an Atlantic Coast Conference game, coming within six of their overall record, as the Blue Devils allowed the most points in their history.
But the Seminoles also allowed their most ever in an ACC game.
"I knew we had a lot more players than they've got," said coach Bobby Bowden, who started his 20th season at FSU by getting the 250th victory of his career. "That's the big difference right now in the ACC. But so far, so good is about all I can say about this one."
FSU's fastbreak offense started quickly and never looked back. The Seminoles scored 27 points in both the first and second quarters, and second- and third-team players were substituted freely.
When it was over, FSU piled up 797 yards, averaging 8.7 per play. Nine players carried the ball, 11 caught passes.
"Coach Bowden told us we'd probably struggle early," said FSU receiver Andre Cooper, who led the Seminoles with nine receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns. "But all of sudden it was boom, boom, boom. And it was over."
By halftime, FSU tailbacks Warrick Dunn and Rock Preston each had rushed for more than 100 yards. Starting quarterback Danny Kanell was on the sideline resting his shoulder after completing 17 of 22 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. Kicker Scott Bentley was trying to catch his breath after another field-goal attempt was blocked, resulting in a two-point return for the Blue Devils.
For the Seminoles, Bentley's three missed extra points were among the few disappointments. Backup quarterback Thad Busby completed 10 of 18 passes but made enough mistakes for Bowden to put Kanell back into the game in the second half.
The defense also had its share of breakdowns, none that mattered at the time but all of which will be a concern to an FSU coaching staff trying to replace six starters and three first-round NFL draft picks on defense.
The Blue Devils scored more points against FSU than any team in the ACC since the Seminoles joined the league in 1992, getting TDs on a 51-yard run by Charles London and a 35-yard pass from Spence Fischer to Corey Thomas.
"We still have a lot of work to do," FSU cornerback Samari Rolle said. "It was frustrating. We're not used to giving up so many big plays at Florida State. Coach (Mickey) Andrews is very disappointed in us. He pretty much told us we need to get our act together."
Andrews, FSU's defensive coordinator, saw his unit allow 404 yards. Duke running back Laymarr Marshall had 12 carries for 82 yards in the first half. After a slow start, Fischer completed 20 of 39 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
But all of that will be overshadowed by FSU's offensive performance.
"I don't think we could have asked for a better first game," said Kanell, who finished 21-of-27 for 275 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. "Everybody executed almost to perfection. It's never easy. But it's just a reflection of the guys we have on this team."
FSU's eight first-half touchdowns were scored by six different players. Kanell hit E.G. Green for a 24-yard touchdown to start the game. Fullback Pooh Bear Williams didn't start, but he managed touchdown plunges of 2, 1 and 2 yards. Dunn, breaking numerous tackles, scored on a 33-yard burst. And Preston, racing outside and speeding down the sideline, scored on an 85-yard run.
"Our tailbacks broke the game open," Bowden said of Dunn (nine carries, 124 yards) and Preston (six carries, 126 yards). "Dunn's run was unbelievable. Duke got in the perfect defense to stop him, and he crawled through there somehow. Then Duke had us backed up pretty good, and Preston broke one."
Also in the first half, Andre Cooper caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Kanell. And junior-college transfer Damian Harrell, playing in his first game at FSU, caught a 17-yarder from Busby for a score.
The Seminoles added a 1-yard touchdown pass from Kanell to Cooper, a 27-yard field goal by Bentley, and a 2-yard touchdown pass from Kanell to Phillip Riley.
As easy as it looked, the Seminoles admit there is still much work to be done. They simply weren't that impressed with themselves, at least not as much as Duke coach Fred Goldsmith.
"I hope we don't face anyone who can run and throw as well as FSU the rest of the season," he said. "Their offense is as good this year as it was last year."