DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Freshman Cam Akers has been tantalizingly close to shaking free for a long touchdown run. Florida State has long believed it’s on the verge of playing like an elite team again.
Finally, and at the perfect time, Akers broke through on Saturday.
Maybe the Seminoles’ entire team did, too.
Akers ran 42 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 8:23 to play, and Florida State held on to beat Duke 17-10.
“It’s so close. It’s sometimes, for us right now, as players and coaches, it’s not frustrating — it is right there to start playing like we’re capable of playing,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “But we’ve got to get back to work. Finding a way to win on the road is huge.”
Akers finished with 115 yards while James Blackman threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Auden Tate on the opening drive for the Seminoles (2-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Blackman finished 18 of 21 for 197 yards passing with two interceptions before he hit on a pair of long third-down completions to keep alive the drive that ended with the long score by his fellow freshman.
“You can see it and you see the look in their eyes and the work and the things they’re doing,” Fisher said of his freshmen. “True freshmen matter now, because in football, with the three-and-outs and the youth ... you’ve got to count on those guys to get into your program and make that contribution.”
Akers took a handoff and ran through one tackle near the line of scrimmage, then bounced outside and outran safety Jordan Hayes to the end zone.
Brittain Brown ran 9 yards for the touchdown that tied it at 10 late in the third quarter for Duke (4-3, 1-3), and Daniel Jones finished 22 of 35 for 204 yards passing.
The Blue Devils’ best chance to tie it came in the final minute, when Jones moved them to the Florida State 30. But Ermon Lane and Tarvarus McFadden ended it by breaking up Jones’ final pass to T.J. Rahming in the end zone.
Austin Parker kicked a 37-yard field goal for Duke while Ricky Aguayo’s 23-yarder put the Seminoles up 10-3 late in the third.
Florida State: For much of the day, the Seminoles appeared capable of becoming the first FSU team to start 1-4 since 1975 , outgaining Duke 425-315 but slipping up just frequently enough to keep the Blue Devils in it. This was Florida State’s fourth straight game decided by seven or fewer points, and the Seminoles — who needed a 40-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to win at Wake Forest two weeks ago — improved to 2-0 in the state of North Carolina while remaining 0-3 everywhere else.
Duke: A once-promising season appears to be unraveling for the Blue Devils, who have lost three straight after matching last year’s victory total in the season’s first four weeks. Duke also fell to 0-20 against Florida State, though this was the first time the Blue Devils finished closer than 19 points against the Seminoles.
“I think they were in shock at little bit,” coach David Cutcliffe said of his players’ reaction to the losing streak. “They were looking for the light. My job is to help them see it. ... We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. That’s the absolute trap.”
Duke’s offense was on the move down 7-3 shortly before halftime when the Blue Devils tried some ill-fated trickery. A halfback pass from Shaun Wilson bounced off tight end Daniel Helm’s hands, and linebacker Emmett Rice picked it off near the sideline, getting a foot down before going out of bounds at the FSU 14.
Blackman certainly throws a catchable ball. All but one of his 21 passes were caught by somebody — either a teammate (18) or a Blue Devil (2).
Florida State established a season high in rushing for the fifth straight week. The Seminoles ran for 248 yards to surpass the previous best of 203 set in last week’s loss to No. 11 Miami. . Florida State has won six straight road games. . Akers has two straight 100-yard games.
Florida State: Returns home on Saturday looking for revenge against Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville, which embarrassed the Seminoles 63-20 last year.
Duke: Plays host to Pittsburgh on Saturday.