TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher says his sixth-ranked Florida State team accomplished what it needed to in a 55-0 win over undermanned Savannah State -- even if the weather interfered.
The Seminoles looked as though they easily would cover a spread that was at one point this week 70½ points that a Las Vegas gaming house established for the game. But Mother Nature dealt its own hand Saturday, forcing officials to call the game with 8:59 left in the third quarter after two long delays because of thunderstorms.
"I've never had that happen in my career," said Fisher, who has spent slightly more than a quarter-century in the college game. "It's easy for me to say I want to keep playing, but I understand the situation."
The situation, mostly, was the weather intervening to end a game that many felt should never have been scheduled.
"That was out of our control," Fisher said, noting that Savannah State took the place of West Virginia, which broke the contract earlier this year after joining the Big 12 Conference. "We executed and did what we were supposed to."
EJ Manuel passed for three touchdowns in the opening seven minutes and Florida State's defense held Savannah State of the FCS to 28 yards.
"Everything was open that we thought would be open," said Manuel, who played just the first quarter. "We always tell each other that it doesn't matter who we're playing."
The Seminoles bolted to a 35-0 lead in the first quarter as Manuel completed 11 of 13 passes for 161 yards, and five different Seminoles scored touchdowns.
Mother Nature may have kept Florida State from erasing some longstanding school records, namely its 74-0 win over Whiting Field in 1949.
By the time both teams returned from a 56-minute weather delay in the second quarter with Florida State already ahead 48-0, officials had agreed to a running clock to shorten the game.
Players departed the field at 8:52 p.m., and with additional weather systems threatening the area, coaches decided quickly to call the game. A 40-minute delay followed, however, as athletics directors from both teams worked to clear the decision with the NCAA.
"We wanted to make sure we went through the right channels and make sure we didn't screw up and make this a non-game for some reason," Fisher said.
All stats and the final score will count. But according to pregame.com, a sports gambling website, all wagers on the game will be refunded -- college football bets aren't official until 55 minutes have been played.
Savannah State has been outscored by a combined 139-0 in its first two games this season. It was beaten 84-0 at Oklahoma State last week. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference member is collecting paychecks totaling $860,000 for the two games, which will help the athletic program meet its total budget of $5.1 million.
"It would be really good for my perspective at Savannah if those two teams play for the national championship and you guys call me for my evaluation of the game because I'm the only one who has seen them both," Savannah State coach Steve Davenport said. "But like I said before, it's really a helpless feeling. Those two programs and those players are really, really tremendous players.
"We knew we were coming in a bit overmatched. Now we just hopefully got to get this thing turned around."
How lopsided was it? Florida State racked up 255 yards in the first quarter while Savannah State's offense went backward to the tune of 20 yards.
Florida State scored four touchdowns on its first 13 plays and led 28-0 just seven minutes into the game as things went wrong from the outset for the visitors.
Savannah State (0-2) won the opening coin toss and elected to defer and then booted the game's opening kickoff out of bounds, giving Florida State the ball at its own 35. Just 39 seconds later, Manuel hit Rodney Smith on a 61-yard scoring bomb on the Seminoles third play and the rout was on.
After a Rashad Greene punt return of 39 yards, Manuel connected with Benjamin on a 9-yard touchdown pass and the Seminoles were up 28-0 with 7:57 remaining in the opening period. Redshirt freshman Jacob Coker found Benjamin on a 19-yard scoring pass for his first collegiate touchdown pass coming just two minutes before the second and final delay.
Florida State associate athletics director Monk Bonasorte said additional weather systems that threatened to delay the game again forced the decision, but he said both Fisher and Davenport were in favor of speeding up the game's second half with a running clock.
"Both coaches came into the command center and it was decided to have a running clock for the fact that we could have another lightning delay," Bonasorte said.
Bonasarte said the ACC officiating crew at Saturday's game consulted with Doug Rhodes, the conference's head of officials, before deciding on the running clock.
While Bonasarte said the officiating crew said there was precedent for the running clock, the decision was unique at Florida State.
"I've been here for 35 years," Bonasarte said, "and I can't remember it happening."
The Seminoles have won their opening two games by 124-3 and now have outscored four FCS opponents by a 245-19 margin in Fisher's three seasons as head coach. Florida State has outscored its first two opponents this season by a combined 124-3 margin. Fisher's club defeated Murray State 69-3 last weekend.
Florida State hosts Wake Forest in its Atlantic Coast Conference opener next Saturday. Savannah State has the week off before hosting North Carolina Central on Sept. 22.
Information from NoleNation's David Hale and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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|North Carolina A&T||7-1||10-2|
|North Carolina Central||7-1||8-3|
|South Carolina State||6-2||7-4|