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Give Florida State credit for crushing Duquesne. Seriously.

Considering the Seminoles’ struggles against Samford, Louisiana Monroe and Jacksonville State, dominating the Dukes is progress.
Florida State running back Treshaun Ward, a Tampa Bay Tech alumnus, rushed for two touchdowns in the Seminoles' rout of Duquesne.
Florida State running back Treshaun Ward, a Tampa Bay Tech alumnus, rushed for two touchdowns in the Seminoles' rout of Duquesne. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]
Published Aug. 28|Updated Aug. 28

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State looked like Florida State again in Saturday’s season-opening 47-7 demolition of Duquesne.

Sure, the opponent was an overmatched team the Seminoles (1-0) were supposed to destroy. But that didn’t matter in 2018, when FSU trailed Samford midway through the fourth quarter before eking out a win. Or a year later, when FSU needed a missed extra point in overtime to beat lowly Louisiana Monroe.

Or last year, when FSU blew the final play to lose to Jacksonville State in the worst defeat of the program’s modern era.

Related: Will Florida State football sink or swim in Mike Norvell’s Year 3 with Seminoles?

Compared to those abominations, Saturday’s never-in-doubt rout at Doak Campbell Stadium wasn’t something to be overlooked. It was a performance worth acknowledging.

It was progress.

“It’s not about who we’re playing,” third-year coach Mike Norvell said. “It’s about us. It’s about that constant growth.”

The offensive line showed that growth by pushing around an inferior opponent. That doesn’t mean the unit will dominate next Sunday against LSU, but it was an encouraging sign for a position group that has struggled for years.

Florida State running back Trey Benson rushed for more than 100 yards in his Seminoles debut.
Florida State running back Trey Benson rushed for more than 100 yards in his Seminoles debut. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]

The backfield showed growth, too. It was as good as advertised and boasted the first trio of 100-yard rushers in program history. Oregon transfer Trey Benson (105 yards, one touchdown) broke tackle after tackle — at least four on one first-half play. Lawrance Toafili (101 yards, one touchdown) cut well and looked like the blue-chip recruit he was coming out of Pinellas Park High. Tampa Bay Tech alumnus Treshaun Ward (127 yards, two touchdowns) plowed through holes and spun out of trouble.

Last year against Jacksonville State, the Seminoles rushed for only 202 yards. On Saturday, they had 207 through 28 minutes. Their 406 rushing yards were the most since gashing USF for 478 in 2016.

Progress.

The first-team offense scored on all six of its drives. The Seminoles totaled more than 200 rushing yards and 150 passing yards in the first half for the first time over the last 15 years, according to ESPN.

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis helped the Seminoles start the season with a win.
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis helped the Seminoles start the season with a win. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]

The defense was stout, too, despite losing the shutout in the third quarter. Defensive end Jared Verse had a sack in his first game since transferring from Albany. All-ACC safety Jammie Robinson broke up a pair of passes.

Duquesne had only three play cover more than 20 yards; FSU allowed five of them in the first half alone in the ugly 2018 win over Samford.

Progress.

“Tonight mattered,” Norvell said afterward. “What we did, the way our guys played, it was important.”

What’s important now is whether FSU can build upon this, starting in New Orleans against LSU. As strong as Saturday’s showing was, it could have been sharper. Quarterback Jordan Travis and 6-foot-7 receiver Johnny Wilson failed to connect on a red-zone pass that might have been a touchdown. Norvell is still waiting on his special teams to break out. Cornerback Jarrian Jones committed an early personal foul.

The offensive line took another hit when Darius Washington left with an injury. Washington started at center because Wisconsin transfer Kayden Lyles is out for the season and 2021 starter Maurice Smith is was also sidelined. But if depth at center is the Seminoles’ biggest concern after this game, that qualifies as a welcome development for where this program has been for the last five years.

So give the Seminoles credit for destroying the Dukes and starting a season with a victory for the first time since 2016. This isn’t 1992, when blowouts like this were expected. It isn’t 2012, either, when you could see a program on the verge of greatness.

In 2022, praising the Seminoles for overpowering an overmatched opponent isn’t patronizing. It’s sincere, and it’s justified.

Florida State's defense shined in Saturday's win over Duquesne.
Florida State's defense shined in Saturday's win over Duquesne. [ PHIL SEARS | AP ]

“It’s a stepping stone for our whole season,” Verse said. “We’re going to have a whole season of things just like that. Domination. Destruction.”

Maybe Verse is right, and Saturday was the beginning of a long-awaited turnaround. Or maybe FSU simply crushed a bad team. We don’t know yet, though the wise bet is to keep expectations muted.

What we do know is that for 60 minutes Saturday night, FSU finally looked like FSU again. It might not sound like much, but it’s progress.

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