Oct. 28, 2010
By: Brandon Mellor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (SEMINOLES.COM) - It's always close when Florida State and NC State meet and Thursday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC was no different.
In a clash of two of the ACC's best, the Woflpack emerged victorious, 28-24, after a Seminoles' fumble in the redzone with under a minute to play.
The loss marks FSU's first setback in the league and puts NC State in the driver's seat in the race for the Atlantic Division crown.
For the game, Florida State (6-2, 4-1 ACC) quarterback Christian Ponder was 17-of-28 for 194 yards with one passing touchdown and two rushing scores. But it was his second-down fumble on the NC State four-yard line at the end of the game that was the difference.
NC State's (6-2, 3-1) Russell Wilson threw for 178 yards with one passing score and two touchdown runs.
The Wolfpack jumped out to a quick lead in the ballgame by scoring on a Wilson one-yard touchdown dive.
Florida State then held NC State to a three-and-out on the Wolfpack's second offensive possession to force a punt to Greg Reid and FSU's scintillating sophomore's 40-yard winding punt return put the 'Noles in scoring position.
Back-to-back offensive penalties halted a Seminoles' drive that saw Ponder connect with Reed on a long touchdown pass. After the scoring play was negated, FSU couldn't convert a third-and-long and were forced to punt.
The Seminoles' inability to put a dent in the scoreboard on that particular drive was indicative of the entire first quarter. Multiple penalties and missed assignments resulted in a scoreless opening 15 minutes for a team coming off a bye the previous week.
But after forcing another Wolfpack punt midway through the second quarter, the offense found some life and a Jones' 36-yard run put the 'Noles back in scoring position.
A few snaps later, Ponder made a miraculous play in which he rolled right and extended his banged-up right arm towards the pylon at the goal line.
On the three-yard play, FSU's senior signal-caller was ruled down just shy of the goal line before an official booth review determined he had in fact tapped the pylon before crashing out of bounds.
Tied at 7-7, the FSU defense got the ball right back on the first play of NC State's ensuing drive when junior linebacker Nigel Bradham stamped the Wolfpack's Dean Haynes and forced a fumble.
A quick pass to Lonnie Pryor and a short run by Thomas was then followed by a first-down securing Ponder sneak. With the ball on the two yard-line, Ponder used his legs once again and juked his way into the endzone for a 14-7 FSU lead.
Another strong defensive stand got FSU the ball back and this time Ponder only needed his arm to extend his team's lead.
After two consecutive passes to Reed, Jones exploded around the right side and used a great block by Pryor to gain 22 yards and get the Seminoles back into the redzone. Ponder then connected with Reed once more for 10 yards on a nifty play in which he threw the ball with his non-throwing left hand while under pressure and on the move.
The very next play Ponder found the surging Haulstead on a 10-yard touchdown. In just 6:26, FSU had eliminated its early 7-0 deficit and had reeled off 21 straight points.
And it wasn't just the FSU offense that shook off the rust that comes with having 12 days between games.
The Seminoles defensive unit allowed 51 yards on 12 on NC State's first possession but limited their hosts to just 70 yards on 24 total plays the rest of the first half.
NC State used the halftime break to make the necessary adjustments to rectify that statistic and promptly marched down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter and scored on a Wilson 10-yard run.
A Ponder fumble on the next FSU drive then resulted in the quick evaporation of FSU's lead. With a short field to work with, Wilson registered his third rushing score of the game on a 20-yard scramble to make it 21- 21 ballgame halfway through the third period.
The final 15 minutes opened with NC State on the move once more and threatening to regain the lead. But Xavier Rhodes made a terrific play on a Wilson pass and intercepted the ball in the endzone.
On the Seminoles' resulting possession, Reed reversed field on a short pass and converted a third-and-19 with a sprinting 30-yard gain. After a Thompson 26-yard run, Dustin Hopkins nailed a 33-yard field goal to put FSU back on top, 24-21, with nine minutes left to play.
The Wolfpack weren't deterred, though, and drained just over six minutes off the game clock as they moved the ball all the way to the FSU one yard-line.
After the Seminoles had dug in their heels on the goal line and stopped three consecutive runs up the middle, NC State elected to go for it on fourth-and-one and it paid off as Wilson tossed a go-ahead touchdown pass.
Given just two and half minutes to answer, Ponder found Haulstead on a big 16-yard gain that got the ball to the FSU 45-yard line. Two plays later, Taiwan Easterling caught a quick slant pass, broke a tackle and then dragged a tackler for a 29-yard gain to the NC State 21-yard line.
Ponder then converted a third-and-five with an eight-yard scramble and Jones' four-yard run pout FSU on the NC State four yard-line with 54 seconds left on the clock.
Unfortunately for the Seminoles, that would be it as Ponder collided with Jones and fumbled the ball over to NC State.
Next up for FSU is a home game against North Carolina on Nov. 6. Check back with Seminoles.com for an official game time.