Oct. 8, 2011
WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- When it rains it pours and Florida State is returning to Tallahassee as a drenched football team.
The Seminoles lost their third consecutive game of the season Saturday against Wake Forest, falling 35-30 to the Demon Deacons in a contest that was painfully similar to the team's performance two weeks ago at Clemson.
Blame penalties (13 of them for 109 yards), defensive struggles (second-straight game allowing 35 points and costly third-down conversions) and five turnovers (four interceptions and one fumble) for this loss. Combine those together and FSU finds itself winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference at 0-2 and just 2-3 overall.
"Very disappointing performance," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "The same issues. Five turnovers, you can't win a football game. Thirteen penalties, you can't win a football game."
Despite each of those win-hindering factors, it was just just an eight-point Wake Forest (4-1, 3-0 ACC) lead with 12:37 left to play.
But the defense could't prevent the Demon Deacons from adding a field goal midway through the fourth quarter and a failed onside kick attempt after a late Kenny Shaw touchdown catch ultimately sealed the deal and Wake Forest moved to 3-0 in the league for the first time in its history.
On a day lacking many bright spots, Rashad Greene did his best to help prevent that Demon Deacon milestone.
The true freshman wide receiver had career highs in catches (12) and yards (164) and continued his season-long streak of catching at least one touchdown in every game. Still, his continued spectacular play could't help a 'Noles team that started off on the wrong cleated foot at BB&T Field.
Clint Trickett got the start at quarterback over the not-quite-healthy EJ Manuel but was yanked late in the second quarter after two interceptions and a fumble. Trickett finished the day with just two completions for 29 yards while Manuel passed for 286 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions of his own.
"[The team doctors] had told me he could play but one good shot could put us back six weeks," Fisher said about Manuel and the week-long question as to whether or not he was healthy enough to play after missing the Clemson game. "The swelling is down but if he takes a shot, if he falls, if he gets hit hard ... we said he could go in emergency if we had to have him and [the team doctors] would prefer that he had one more week."
"It was an emergency," Fisher later added.
With Manuel providing a bit of a spark, the FSU offense actually out-gained Wake Forest's 425 to 391. Christian Green had a career-high 102 of those yards receiving and the ground game finally showed signs if life, registering 110 yards and James Wilder and Ty Jones touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the improved performance from the running game came at a price as staring tailback Chris Thompson sustained T5 and T6 compression fractures in his back and had to stay in North Carolina for further evaluation.
For the Demon Deacons, Tanner Price threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Wake
"We have played well on special teams at times, we've played well on offense at times and we've played well on defense but what we haven't done is played well together," Fisher said. "One side is not feeding off the other side."
The Seminoles started the game in Wake Forest territory after a defensive stop. The good field position didn't matter much though, as Thompson was injured on a first down run and then Trickett threw an interception that was returned 50 yards.
The turnover led to a 27-yard Demon Deacons field goal with 7:37 left in the first quarter for the game's first points.
On the ensuing drive, the Seminoles finally generated some positive offense on the ground after struggling in that area through the first four games of the season. Wilder capped off an 80-yard drive that featured 54 rushing yards by four different tailbacks with his three-yard smash into endzone that put the 'Noles on top 7-3.
The Demon Deacons then began the second quarter with a stop of their own and resulting touchdown drive. Wake Forest scored quickly on a tricky play that saw receiver Michael Campanaro catch the football behind the line of scrimmage and then throw a scoring strike for 30 yards. The touchdown was then followed by a Jacobbi MdDaniel block on the extra point attempt and the score moved to 9-7 in favor of the home team with 12:38 left in the opening half.
Back-to-back Trickett turnovers-- a fumble on a big hit and then a tipped pass that was intercepted -- on successive drives led to a Wake Forest touchdown late in the second quarter.
With Trickett struggling and the offense reeling, Manuel entered the ballgame with just a few minutes to play in the second frame and promptly threw a beautiful 44-yard touchdown toss to a diving Greene just before the conclusion of the opening half.
The play cut Wake Forest's lead to just 16-14 at the break.
The late FSU momentum only lasted as long as intermission. Manuel was sacked on the first play of the third quarter, Zebrie Sanders then got a false start penalty and Jermaine Thomas' tackle in the endzone on the next play resulted in a safety for the Demon Deacons.
FSU's deficit then moved to 25-14 a few minutes later when Wake Forest's quick 70-yard drive ended on a two-yard Price touchdown pass. That score was then answered with a Dustin Hopkins 40-yard field goal after a blatant defensive holding on Shaw that went uncalled.
Down 25-17 at that point, the FSU offense appeared to be on the verge of an answer. Manuel had hit Green on a 41-yard pass that had the Seminoles threatening but two plays later he was intercepted on a badly thrown ball into triple coverage.
That fourth turnover was followed by another long Wake Forest scoring drive. Price connected with Terence Davis on a third-down touchdown pass to make it 32-17 with 14:50 left to play.
If they were on the ropes at that point, the FSU offense didn't show it. Utilizing a no-huddle offense, Manuel orchestrated a two-minute drive with quick, short passes to Greene and Rodney Smith and Jones ran one in from three yards out to make it a one-score ballgame with 12:37 in the fourth quarter.
In need of a stop, the FSU defense couldn't prevent Wake Forest from moving down the field, though. The Demon Deacons took six minutes off the clock and tacked on a 37-yard field goal with six and a half minutes left on the clock to go back up by two scores.
"We had to get turnovers and we didn't do that," junior cornerback Greg Reid said.
The Seminoles were easily marching once again when they got the ball back but a long Greene reception was negated by a holding penalty. A play later, Manuel was intercepted for the second time.
After FSU used two timeouts and forced a punt, Manuel guided a last-ditch, 12-play scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Shaw to change the scoreboard to 35-30. After the two-point conversion failed, the 'Noles attempted an onside kick but it was fielded cleanly by Wake Forest for the game-clincher.
Florida State will try to end its current losing skid next weekend with a 3 p.m. game at Duke.