By: Brandon Mellor (@BrandonMellor), Seminoles.com Managing Editor
Next: Oct. 13 vs. Boston College
Next: Oct. 20 at Maryland
Carter-Finley Stadium // Attendance: 54,962
RALEIGH, N.C. -- No. 3 Florida State's first loss of the 2012 season came in an all-too-familiar place.
Losers of four of the last seven at Carter-Finley Stadium prior to Saturday night's game, a second-half collapse added one more to the loss column in Raleigh, N.C. as NC State escaped with a come-from-behind 17-16 victory.
Dreams of a national championship dashed. Driver's seat in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division doomed.
Florida State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) seemed in control but a 16-0 halftime lead and first half of defensive dominance was erased as Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) quarterback Mike Glennon threw a 4th-and-goal two-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood with 16 seconds left to win the game.
The scoring toss capped off a dramatic second-half turnaround for NC State as the home team reeled off 17 unanswered points by turning up the defensive heat on FSU's running game and discovering a recipe for success in its own passing game. NC State had just 68 yards of offense in the opening two periods but eclipsed that total on its first drive of the second half and finished with 325 yards by game's end.
Glennon's game-winning touchdown throw was set up by a blocked Cason Beatty punt that put the Wolfpack on the FSU 43 yard-line with 2:27 left to play. FSU forced a 4th-and-10 four plays after the special teams blunder but Glennon found Quintin Payton for a drive-preserving 12-yard gain.
FSU's offense didn't help its defense's cause in that second-half meltdown. After registering 221 yards in the first two quarters, the 'Noles were held to just 122 yards in the second half.
Chris Thompson finished the game with a stellar 141 yards on a career-high-tying 25 carries but 115 of those came in the first quarter when the Wolfpack had no answer for FSU's shifty tailback. EJ Manuel with 218 yards passing and one touchdown but had a costly second-half interruption that led to NC State's first of two touchdowns in the game. He also took a sack that pushed the Seminoles out of field goal range in the fourth quarter.
"We couldn't control the line of scrimmage," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "We should have been aggressive and thrown the ball more."
The Seminoles were just 3-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts.
Glennon finished the night 30-of-55 for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
For the first time since the Wake Forest game, FSU scored first as Dustin Hopkins' 49-yard field goal attempt sailed through the uprights for a 3-0 advantage with 6:34 left in the first quarter.
After forcing a third consecutive punt, Manuel found himself in a 3rd-and-17 hole but fired a 21-yard completion to Greene. Thompson's 12-yard option run was then followed by runs of five and 12 yards before NC State bit on the play action and Manuel hit Nick O'Leary for a four-yard touchdown.
The score not only put FSU up 10-0 but was the first points allowed by the Wolfpack in the second quarter all season. NC State had entered the game with a 52-0 second-quarter advantage.
Despite a brief trip to the locker room to have his elbow check out, Thompson wasn't done. After missing a stalled offensive series he checked back into the ballgame and dashed 36 yards to the redzone. Four plays later Hopkins hit a 20-yard field goal to give the 'Noles a 13-0 lead with 4:07 left in the first half.
Hopkins then added a 36-yard field goal to push the Florida State lead to 16-0 heading into halftime.
The 'Noles held NC State to just 68 yards of offense and four first downs in that opening half but the Wolfpack matched and went over both of those totals on their first drive of the second period. Five first downs and 78 yards later, NC State finally updated the scoreboard with a 27-yard field goal.
It looked like FSU would get those points back at the end of the third quarter but a marching drive into NC State came to abrupt halt in time for the final quarter after Manuel was picked off by Juston Burris.
The turnover not only prevented potential FSU points, it led to an actual Wolfpack score. Shadrach Thornton's 24-yard touchdown reception capped a quick 59-yard drive and made it a one score game at 16-10 with 13:47 remaining in the game.
FSU was just 2-of-10 on third-down conversion attempts at the time but Manuel picked the perfect time to make it 3-for-11. His 27-yard pass to Benjamin on 3rd-and-9 preserved FSU's next drive after the NC State score. Manuel found Smith for 20 yards three plays later to put FSU in scoring position but a 15-yard sack pushed Florida State out of field goal range.
Adding insult to injury, FSU used two of its three timeouts on the failed drive, too.
In need of a defensive stop after the punt, Lamarcus Joyner delivered. The junior safety's clutch open-field tackle prevented what would have been a big third-down conversion by the 'Pack and forced a punt.
But the strong defensive play still wouldn't lead to any breathing room. Fisher had to use his final timeout on the ensuing drive as he challenged whether or not Benjamin actually caught a long third-down conversion attempt. But the booth review ruled that FSU's 6-foot-6 redshirt didn't maintain the football through the catch while falling out of bounds.
FSU forced a punt on NC State's next drive but had its own punt attempt blocked in game-changing fashion on the next series.
"You can't have a punt blocked," Fisher said. "That's two [blocks this season]. Nobody gets a punt blocked anymore."
After a two-game road stand, FSU returns home to regroup and prepare for a 5:30 p.m. contest against Boston College Oct. 13.