CHARLOTTE — Anthony Boone had certainly dreamed of a better outcome for the return to his hometown Saturday night.
But from an offense that needed to be effective to keep No. 20 Duke competitive against No. 1 Florida State in the ACC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium, almost nothing went right in the 45-7 loss.
One of the Blue Devils’ strengths in winning the Coastal Division championship and getting their first 10-win season was a really nice offensive balance.
This time, the running and passing attacks were equally ineffective, as the Blue Devils passed for 140 yards, ran for 99 and picked up seven first downs.
Boone completed 20-of-40 passes for 138 yards and two interceptions with two sacks.
“I never felt like it was slipping away,” said Boone, the redshirt junior out of Weddington High whose previous nine starts had been Duke victories. “But they kept adding to their momentum and we couldn’t stop that wave. That was kind of what happened.”
Duke had won seven straight games with Boone under center following his return for the Oct. 12 win over Navy after he missed three games with a broken collarbone.
“You have to make plays when they present themselves,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We’re not going to beat a lot of people when we complete 50 percent of our passes, but that’s not always just the quarterback. In a game like this, any given opportunity to make a play you’d better make it.”
The third quarter was particularly rough for Boone and the Duke offense. FSU’s second interception of the day came when Terrence Smith picked off Boone at the Duke 27, leading to Jameis Winston’s 12-yard pass to Kenny Shaw that made it 24-0.
Boone also lost a fumble on the Blue Devils’ best scoring chance of the second half, giving the Seminoles the ball at their 39 with four minutes left in the third quarter and a 31-0 lead. The Seminoles needed just four plays to score again, and the next time Duke got the ball it was Brandon Connette calling the signals.
Boone did some back after Connette was injured and guided Duke’s last drive, resulting in Josh Snead’s 5-yard scoring run with 1:01 to play.
“Florida State may be the best team in the country,” said Boone, who has thrown for 1,833 yards in 10 games. “They have all the talent, all the athletes and everything a football team needs. I wish them all the best.”
There is still a silver lining at the end of the season for Boone and the Blue Devils. They’ll be heading on a pretty good trip in a few weeks, representing the school in a bowl game for the second straight season for the first time ever.
“We still have confidence no matter what,” Boone said. “Now we’ll just see where we’re going for our bowl game and go from there.”