WINSTON-SALEM — Mike Norvell liked the way his fourth-ranked Florida State team practiced all week before visiting Wake Forest. It all carried over to a strong first-half performance Saturday, highlighted by the latest impressive performance from one of the most impactful transfer additions in the country.
Keon Coleman needed only one arm to snag one of his two touchdown catches while Trey Benson took a short pass and broke loose for an 80-yard score that helped FSU overpower Wake Forest 41-16, keeping the unbeaten Seminoles in firm control of the Atlantic Coast Conference race.
Jordan Travis threw for 359 yards and three scores to go with a rushing TD for FSU (8-0, 6-0 ACC), which ran off 24 unanswered points in the second quarter to build a 34-7 halftime lead. That included a defensive performance that held Wake Forest (4-4, 1-4) to just 75 first-half yards and 210 for the game.
“I love the response,” Norvell said after FSU made its second-quarter move to blow open a tight game. “To be able to come and finish the second quarter the way we did, I mean, that was a heck of a response.”
Coleman, a transfer receiver from Michigan State, was the standout with his game-breaking ability in his third multi-TD game of the season. The highlight came late in the second quarter with Coleman locked up with Demon Deacons defensive back Caelen Carson, himself an NFL prospect, in the end zone as Travis lofted a throw his way.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Coleman jostled with Carson with his left arm, then extended his right to snag the ball and pull it toward his right shoulder while remaining on his feet for the 14-yard score.
Carson could only turn and immediately walk away as FSU pushed its lead to 31-7 with 1:16 left before the break.
“I mean, they left me 1-on-1,” Coleman said with a shrug. “I don’t really know what else to tell you.”
His quarterback sure did, though.
“Every time we get a 1-on-1,” Travis said, “I want to give him a chance.”
Coleman’s first score came when he took a pass on the left side from Travis, shrugged off a tackler then sprinted loose for a 29-yard score that started FSU’s second-quarter flurry. Benson — who also ran for a fourth-quarter TD with the outcome assured — followed later in the quarter, taking the screen then cutting inside Wake Forest’s pursuing defense to break into the open field and outrun a trailing Chelen Garnes to the end zone.
Wake Forest had only one truly explosive play in the first half when the game was still undecided, with Justice Ellison cutting through the left side for a 51-yard run to end the opening quarter. The Demon Deacons capped that drive with Ke’Shawn Williams’ 2-yard run around the left end early in the second to pull within 10-7, but FSU answered with Coleman’s first TD on its way to another league win.
“It’s the most complete football team that we’ve played all season,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “They made explosive plays, they were very stout on defense, they’re really good in the kicking game. That’s kind of where they are right now, and this is where we are right now.”
The Demon Deacons have a short week, traveling to No. 20 Duke on Thursday night.