NCF Nation: James Wilder


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The game was billed as a battle of division leaders, but Duke hardly looked the part Saturday as Florida State dominated the Blue Devils en route to a 48-7 victory.

Despite Duke's upstart status this season, little has changed in its rivalry with the Seminoles. EJ Manuel threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler Hunter added a 75-yard punt return for a score and Florida State cruised to its 18th victory in as many tries against the Blue Devils.

It was over when: James Wilder Jr. rumbled into the end zone from 1 yard out just 1:50 into the second quarter. That touchdown put Florida State ahead 24-0, and it was already clear that in spite of all the buzz leading up to the game surrounding Duke's sudden resurgence, the Blue Devils simply weren't in the same class as the Seminoles.

Game ball goes to: Wilder and Devonta Freeman. There were plenty of stout performances, from Manuel's long passes to stellar defensive work by Cornellius Carradine and Christian Jones. But coming into the game, the big question was how Florida State's ground game would respond to the loss of starting tailback Chris Thompson, and Freeman and Wilder offered an emphatic answer. The pair combined for 174 yards on 25 carries and scored three times on the ground. Since Thompson's injury, Wilder and Freeman have averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

Stat of the game: Manuel wasn't asked to do much against Duke, but when he unloaded in the passing game, it was usually for a big play. Manuel averaged 17.6 yards per attempt against Duke -- the highest average of his career. Five of Manuel's eight completions gained at least 30 yards, and he finished with 282 yards passing. In his two career starts against Duke, Manuel has completed just 17 passes, but five have gained 50 yards or more. Meanwhile, Duke's quarterbacks averaged just 3.6 yards per attempt Saturday.

Unsung hero: Dustin Hopkins. OK, so neither of his field goals meant a whole lot in determining the outcome, but Hopkins connected on a 56-yard kick with 9:40 to go in the fourth quarter to set the ACC's all-time record for most field goals in a career, eclipsing former Maryland kicker Nick Novak. Hopkins has 15 field goals in his last five games, but the 58-yarder was a career-long for the senior. He's just 10 points shy of setting the NCAA record for most points scored in a career.

Record performance: Hopkins provided the only ACC record of the day, as Duke's Conner Vernon will have to wait to set the conference record for receiving yards. Vernon entered play needing 94 yards to break Peter Warrick's career mark for ACC receivers, but he managed just three catches for 12 yards.

Cause for concern: It was an easy win for Florida State, but fumbles remained a big problem for the second consecutive game. FSU coughed up the football four times Saturday, with Duke recovering each of them. This comes on the heels of a six-fumble performance against Miami last week. The problems were across the board, too, with Manuel fumbling on a QB run, Rodney Smith fumbling after a long reception, Freeman coughing up the football on a running play and Hunter muffing a return.
There are only a few recruits in the country who have the power to make grown men scream and rejoice like the teenagers they're pursuing.

James Wilder is one of them.

Wilder, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back from Plant High School and the No. 19 player in the ESPNU 150, chose Florida State over Florida and Georgia. He had a little fun with Georgia fans, torturing them in the process, thanks to a false Internet rumor that said he was heading to Athens. Wilder is the son of former NFL player James Wilder, and his commitment could have a ripple effect on the rest of the 2011 class.

Florida State is recruiting like it's 1999.

The Seminoles haven't done a darn thing on the field yet to impress these recruits, which makes what Jimbo Fisher and his staff have done on the recruiting trail even more impressive. Florida State just beat Florida where it counts the most. The Seminoles aren't back in the national picture on the field yet, but they've returned to that level in recruiting. It's only a matter of time before that translates into wins.

"We talk personnel and recruiting every day," said offensive line coach Rick Trickett. "He's wearing it out. He's on the phone every day. He's all over that. That's his No. 1 priority right now."

And it shows in this recruiting class.

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