TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Ticker) -- Until Chris Rix sharpens up, Florida State will continue to use Greg Jones as a blunt object.
Jones ran for a career-high 173 yards and two touchdowns as No. 5 Florida State pounded Virginia, 40-19, in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
A possible Heisman Trophy candidate, Rix had a lackluster second half last week against Iowa State and his problems continued Saturday. The sophomore completed 10-of-18 passes for just 117 yards and two interceptions, failing to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 13 games.
But the Seminoles (2-0, 1-0 ACC) did not need any heroics from Rix as Jones battered the Cavaliers. The junior carried 21 times, including TD runs of 19 yards in the second quarter and five yards in the third period.
"I didn't even know I had 173 yards," Jones said. "It didn't really feel like it during the game."
"Greg ran good, he made a lot of things happen," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "He gained yardage when it looked like he was stopped. He was a big factor out there today. He is going to get better. He is just now learning how to run."
Last week, Jones had 113 yards on 22 carries. He has four straight 100-yard games.
"He's a beast," said Warrick Dunn, FSU's all-time rusher who was inducted to the school's Hall of Fame. "He's a different back from what you're used to seeing. He has the physique of a linebacker. He's fast and he has great power. The thing that's scary is that he's so big, but he'll still put a move on you."
"I'm not really worried about 100-yard games or anything like that," Jones said. "I just want to go out there and do whatever I can to help this team win each Saturday."
Jones led a ground game that amassed 303 yards, an uncharacteristic number for the pass-happy Seminoles. With one of the best offensive lines in the country, they have had more rushing than passng yards in each of their first two games.
"The offensive line is still getting better each week," guard Todd Williams said. "We just wanted to show people that we can come out and grind. We appreciate the coaches letting us run the ball like we did today."
Florida State also was much better on defense, holding Virginia (0-2, 0-1) scoreless through three quarters and often pinning the Cavaliers deep in their own territory.
Virginia handed Florida State its first ACC loss in 1995 but has dropped the last seven meetings by a combined 190 points.
It was a play by FSU's special teams that got the offense untracked. Senior Jared Hetzel, a former walk-on now on scholarship, burst through the line and blocked a punt through the end zone to open the scoring midway through the first period.
"I don't think two points swings the momentum dramatically," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "It's probably bigger in terms of aggravating me than it was in terms of swinging momentum."
Nevertheless, the Seminoles scored after the ensuing free kick as Torrance Washington's first career TD, a four-yard run, capped a 60-yard drive with 3:20 left in the first quarter.
For the rest of the first half, the Cavaliers had trouble getting out of the shadow of their own goalposts. Following a turnover, Jones rumbled 19 yards for a score that made it 16-0 with 10:38 to play in the second quarter.
Rix sneaked in from the 1 less than three minutes later, giving FSU a 23-0 halftime lead.
In the first half, the Seminoles harassed Marques Hagans into 1-of-7 passing for just four yards. Hagans, who earned the start with strong play in last week's loss to Colorado State, was replaced by Matt Schaub in the second half.
Jones' second TD capped an 80-yard march that opened the second half, a 42-yard field goal by Xavier Beitia made it 33-0 with 3:25 left in the third period.
Schaub was 19-of-25 for 247 yards and three touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter. By that time, the Seminoles were substituting liberally on both sides of the ball.
"We had no points at halftime and we have 19 now," Groh said. "I'd say that he gave us a good spark."