Army tops Duke|Deacons blanked by FSU

Published 6:42 pm Sunday, September 26, 2010

By By Associated Press
DURHAM — With every mistake by Duke, Trent Steelman and Army inched closer to the program’s best start in 14 years.
Steelman threw for two scores and ran for another while the Black Knights converted four turnovers into touchdowns to beat the Blue Devils 35-21 on Saturday. The win ended a seven-game skid against Atlantic Coast Conference teams and reversed Army’s history of first-month struggles since it won its first nine games in 1996.
Brian Cobbs ran for two first-half scores for the Black Knights (3-1), who dominated from the opening kickoff and never let the struggling Blue Devils (1-3) back in it.
Army hadn’t been better than 2-2 entering October since that 9-0 start in ’96.
‘‘Our guys are getting more comfortable in this role,’’ Army coach Rich Ellerson said. ‘‘They’re getting more comfortable with this expectation that this is what the scoreboard is supposed to look like. That’s a powerful thing, learning how to win, and we’re starting to do that.’’
Army jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, which allowed it to stay with the yard-churning and clock-controlling triple-option offense against a Duke team still reeling from last week’s ugly loss to top-ranked Alabama. Army ran for 333 yards and controlled the clock for nearly 40 minutes.
The Blue Devils got off to a horrendous start with Sean Renfree throwing two quick interceptions that led to touchdowns, then watched things get worse the rest of the afternoon. Army led 21-7 at halftime, then Steelman ran perfectly executed play-action fakes on TD tosses to Raymond Maples and Austin Barr to push the lead to 35-7 in third quarter.
‘‘(The turnovers) set the tone for the rest of the game,’’ defensive end Josh McNary said. ‘‘It showed that we came out and weren’t playing any games. We meant business when we came out here. I think they recognized that early on. The fact that we were able to do that, we picked up on it and just fed off of it for the rest of the game.’’
Ellerson had said he had visions of Duke’s passing attack being able to move the ball up and down the field, yet Steelman came up with big pass plays long before Renfree. After Conner Vernon fumbled away a catch, Steelman connected with Maples for the 34-yard score, then added the 31-yard touchdown to Barr when Renfree fumbled while scrambling despite being untouched to make it 35-7.
In each case, Duke’s defenders were nowhere near Maples or Barr after repeatedly inching up to help in stopping the run.
‘‘Based on how low their safeties were playing … we knew we were going to be able to get behind them,’’ Steelman said. ‘‘It was just a matter of when. When you take your eyes back to your receivers and you see them that wide open, it’s hard to miss.’’
Yet it was the surprisingly inept play of Renfree and the offense that had to befuddle third-year coach David Cutcliffe most. Stephen Anderson jumped in front of Renfree’s short pass over the middle and returned it to the 3-yard line, setting up Cobbs’ first score barely a minute into the game.
Then, after the Blue Devils went three-and-out, Donnie Dixon grabbed another bad throw from Renfree and returned it to the 5, setting up Steelman’s keeper two plays later and leading Cutcliffe to immediately walk to his quarterback and try to calm him down on the sideline.
Last season, Renfree came off the bench to lead Duke to a 35-19 win at Army in his first college game. This time, he threw for 67 yards through the first three periods.
‘‘I certainly saw shock early, with our offense, with everybody,’’ Cutcliffe said. ‘‘That’s pretty difficult to deal with. These kids know we’re better than that. They’re looking for answers and we’ve got to give them to them.’’
The Blue Devils didn’t manage the kind of big play they desperately needed until Renfree found Vernon for a 58-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. But after Renfree threw a third interception with about 5 minutes left, Cutcliffe could only greet his first-year starter as he walked off the field, put both hands on the sophomore’s shoulder pads and have a long discussion on the sideline.
‘‘We just couldn’t get a rhythm,’’ Vernon said. ‘‘It’s definitely on us today. From an offensive standpoint, we lost this game for us.’’
Ponder torches Wake’s defense
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Christian Ponder looked like the quarterback Florida State fans remembered from a year ago and the Seminoles’ revamped defense resembled that of their glory days a decade ago.
Ponder threw for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Willie Haulstead and Florida State’s defense recorded its first shutout Saturday in more than two years as the Seminoles defeated Wake Forest 31-0.
‘‘Physically they just had us overmatched,’’ Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said after watching the high-scoring Demon Deacons grounded with just 185 yards offense. ‘‘More than anything we were just outmatched tonight.’’
The Seminoles, who led the nation with 13 sacks entering the game, added six more while holding an opponent to fewer than 200 yards offense for the second straight week. Wake Forest’s freshman quarterback, Tanner Price, was knocked out of the game late in the third quarter with a possible concussion.
‘‘They were whipping us up front and getting to the quarterback,’’ Grobe said. ‘‘Our quarterback hasn’t seen those type of guys before.’’
Florida State (3-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) led 10-0 when play was halted 42 minutes by the threat of lightning early in the second half.
Ponder, who was off to a slow start this season, completed 24 of 37 passes, exceeding 200 yards for the first time this season. He also ran for a touchdown. He had passed for only 429 yards in Florida State’s first three games.
Wake Forest (2-2, 1-1) came into the game averaging 43.7 points, but giving up 43 points a game.
‘‘We made sure that we weren’t overconfident,’’ Ponder said, recalling the 47-17 drubbing at Oklahoma two weeks ago. ‘‘We did that the second game of the year and it bit us in the butt.’’
Florida State’s last shutout was a 62-0 win over Western Carolina in 2008. The Seminoles’ last ACC shutout was a 33-0 win over Virginia in 2006.
The 6-foot-2 Haulstead’s first two career touchdowns came on plays covering 10 and 4 yards.
Florida State’s final touchdown came on a 23-yard pass from EJ Manuel to freshman Kenny Shaw with 1:04 left in the game.
Florida State rolled up 485 yards offense and limited Wake Forest to 185. Last week the Seminoles held BYU to 191 yards offense in a 34-10 win. Taiwan Easterling caught 6 passes for 112 yards and Jermaine Thomas turned in a season-best 88 yard on 10 carries.
Price passed for 35 yards and rushed for another 16 while his replacement, Ted Stachitas, was 5-for-5 passing for 47 yards while also scrambling for another 16 trying to escape the heavy Florida State rush.
It was coach Jimbo Fisher’s first ACC win and an otherwise particularly sweet victory for the Seminoles, who were embarrassed in Wake Forest’s previous two visits to Tallahassee, outscoring the Seminoles 42-3.
The Demon Deacons routed Florida State 30-0 in 2006 on their way to an ACC title that year, giving iconic coach Bobby Bowden his first shutout loss at home in 30 years.
And in 2008, Wake Forest kept the Seminoles out of the end zone again in a 12-3 win — the Demon Deacons’ third straight in the series.
But this time it was all Florida State on a sweltering afternoon, the game closely following the script of Florida State’s 34-10 win last week over BYU with the Seminoles taking command in the second half.
Ponder ran 6 yards on a keeper to score with 8:34 left in the third quarter. That put the Seminoles up 17-0, and Ponder’s second TD throw to Haulstead made it a 24-0 game midway through the fourth quarter.
Haulstead’s first touchdown reception 1:38 into the second quarter gave the Seminoles a 7-0 lead and Dustin Hopkins tacked on a 34-yard field goal with 5:28 left in the period to give Florida State its 10-0 halftime lead.
Florida State had threatened to score in the first quarter, but Ponder fumbled at the Wake Forest 4 when he was sacked by the Demon Deacons’ Joey Ehrmann.
Florida State has now won two straight over Wake Forest after snapping a three-game losing streak last year with a 41-28 win behind Manuel, who had replaced an injured Ponder.
For the second straight week sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins recorded a pair of sacks for the Seminoles while Wake Forest defensive end Kyle Wilber had a pair of sacks included in his 11 tackles.