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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (seminoles.com)– Not satisfied to only hold Boston College off the scoreboard on Friday night, the Florida State defense scored a few points of its own.
After nearly three quarters spent preserving a seven-point lead, FSU’s defenders took matters into their own hands when Terrance Smith forced a fumble and Jalen Ramsey picked up the ball and returned it for a 36-yard touchdown that sealed the No. 6 Seminoles’ 14-0 win here at Alumni Stadium.
FSU is 3-0 for the fourth consecutive season and won its third straight ACC opener. The Seminoles have a bye week before visiting Wake Forest on Oct. 3.
“I said at halftime, ‘If they don’t score, we win,’” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Then they went out and got seven points. That’s what happens. I’m extremely happy and proud for those guys and our team.”
The Seminoles earned the first shutout of coordinator Charles Kelly’s tenure and first since blanking Maryland in 2013.
FSU last shut out an opponent on the road in a 37-0 win over Notre Dame in 2003.
“It’s always great when we can pitch a shut out,” Ramsey said. “It was great play-calling by Coach Kelly, great execution by the players. It was a complete game by us.”
It came at the right time, too.
Because after marching down the field for an eight-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to start the game, FSU’s offense found little easy against a BC defense that came into the game ranked No. 1 in the country.
Quarterback Everett Golson started the game 5-for-5 and gave FSU a quick 7-0 lead with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Travis Rudolph.
After that, the Seminoles’ remaining offensive drives ended like this: punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs. (Golson ran out the clock on a fourth-down play.)
Which meant a busy night for punter Cason Beatty.
Fortunately for the Seminoles, Beatty was up to the task, punting seven times for 366 yards – good for an eye-popping 52.3 average yards per punt.
The Charlotte, N.C., native also booted a career-high four punts of 50-plus yards, the last of which went for 58 before rolling to a stop at the Eagles’ 1-yard line.
“I talked with the defense today,” Beatty said. “Punting is defensive. The offense needed us as a defense and I’m on the defense. It was time for us to step up and the defense did an amazing job today.”
As a result, the Eagles offense spent most of the night with poor starting field position.
They started four drives inside their own 20-yard line, and they never made it past FSU’s 39.
“We’re not good enough against that kind of team to go 90 yards,” BC coach Steve Addazio said.
“I thought [Beatty] was huge in the game,” Fisher said. “I mean, that guy was hitting punts and keeping field position. … That’s a guy who went through a couple rough weeks, not playing as well as he was capable of playing. But we knew.”
It took FSU four minutes and 53 seconds for the Seminoles to take a lead.
It took nearly three full quarters for them to extend it.
Finally, after a combined 12 punts, FSU earned some breathing room.
It’s appropriate then that, as the Seminoles’ defense looks to regain its championship-level form from 2013, that two of the few players left from that team helped swing the tide.
It was Smith, now a fifth-year senior, who jarred the ball loose from BC’s Jon Hilliman.
And it was Ramsey, now a junior, who scooped and scored.
“It was just kind of in the right place at the right time,” Ramsey said. “I saw it, I just picked it up and started running to the end zone.”
With their lead finally extended to two scores, the Seminoles could afford to be more aggressive.
By the time the clock hit zero, the Eagles had mustered just 195 yards of total offense and a meager 3.4 yards per play.
Not that FSU fared much better.
After driving 83 yards to start the game, the Seminoles managed just 134 for the rest of the game.
Golson finished 15 of 24 for 119 yards. And FSU’s running game, fresh of a record-setting performance last week, was held in check by a BC defense that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation.
That defense, as well as an apparent injury, limited star running back Dalvin Cook to 67 yards on 15 carries. He went to the locker room midway through the second half but later returned to the game.
Fisher said Cook was “banged and bruised” but that he was fine.
“I don’t think it’s anything major,” Fisher said.
Fisher admitted that, after how the game started, he was surprised to find yards and points at such a premium.
He credited Boston College, but also counted several instances where the Seminoles had the right play call but failed to execute it.
“That starts with me,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job on offense of getting these guys executing better, playing better. Then we’ve got to play better.”
Still, Fisher had few complaints about a conference win on the road.
Even if the defense had to do more heavy lifting than usual.
“We’re going to have to get better all year. I knew that,” Fisher said. “But I’m very proud of our team, went on the road and was able to shut a team out. ... Our defense played outstanding and that’s where it starts.
“If they don’t score, you don’t lose. That’s for sure.”