Oct 17, 2008
Raleigh, N.C. — N.C. State suffered its third straight ACC loss Thursday night, falling 26-17 to Florida State despite showing improvement in areas like the defensive front.
“Our mantra all week was, 'Play hard, get to the line and go,'” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “You believe in your defense. They work hard and fluke things happen. We just have to step up and keep pushing.”
Junior defensive end Willie Young finished with three sacks, but his performance wasn't enough as the Pack fell to 2-5 overall.
“Each one of those sacks was great. It put us in great position to make the stop,” freshman linebacker Dwayne Maddox said. “We were amped up and ready to play, but we just couldn’t pull it out.”
Young, a 6-foot-4 defensive end, rejuvenated a Wolfpack defense that had been allowing an average of 549 yards and 39.5 points in their last two games. The team’s defense would slowly deteriorate, though, with Florida State remaining on offense for a total of 37:46, the greatest amount of time for any Pack opponent this season.
Meanwhile, State converted just one of nine third downs.
“It came down to third downs,” coach Tom O’Brien said. “We had to stay on the field and we couldn’t. I think it’s the third week in a row that we’re playing more defense than we are offense. We have to get back to the drawing board.”
Florida State had 392 yards Thursday and 15 fewer penalty yards than O’Brien’s squad.
On the opening drive, Young, a native of Riviera Beach, Fla., recorded a sack on Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder. In addition to Young, redshirt junior Alan-Michael Cash, back from knee surgery, forced Florida State to punt after recording a sack of his own.
“It gave me a lot of confidence after I had the sack,” Cash said. “I felt like I could do anything I wanted to in that game. I feel renewed.”
Cash wasn’t the only returning player dealing with a lingering injury in Raleigh. After coming back for a few snaps, redshirt sophomore linebacker Nate Irving limped off of the field in the second quarter with an ankle injury. After that, FSU took advantage of Maddox’s youth, running and dumping off short passes to his side of the field.
“They’re going to try to target the young guy on the field. That’s what everybody tries to do,” Maddox said. “I just tried to go out there, stick to the game plan and react like it’s my everyday job.”
On offense, State’s running game looked unstoppable, posting three consecutive first-down sprints in the first three plays from scrimmage. Then, after an incomplete pass intended for Jarvis Williams on third and 4, Josh Czajkowski booted the ball through the uprights to put State ahead 3-0.
State finished with a combined rushing game of 157 yards, its best since last season’s game against UNC.
“Jamelle [Eugene] had a great night running for us,” O’Brien said. “If we could get just the ball going more, we could control the
Early in the second quarter, Wilson found tight end Anthony Hill on a 20-yard touchdown pass to put the Pack up 10-0. FSU answered with Graham Gano’s 37-yard field goal for on the very next drive.
Meanwhile, FSU’s Ponder continued to scramble for short gains against the Wolfpack defense.
“[Ponder] is quick and can really run,” O’Brien said. “He shouldn’t have affected the game the way he did, though.”
Wide receiver Corey Surrency lit up the Wolfpack secondary as the Seminoles drove down the field and connected on another field goal to close out at halftime 10-6.
Florida State set up shop in the third quarter after N.C. State was forced to punt it away, and the Seminoles scored six plays later off of a 27-yard touchdown run by Antone Smith.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wilson found Owen Spencer deep in the Seminoles' territory to tack on a 67-yard touchdown reception, putting the Pack ahead 17-13. The reception was the longest of both Wilson's and Spencer’s careers.
“It was amazing. We run that play in practice a lot, but it’s hard to stop the other team when they’re executing as well,” Spencer said. “You feel down as an individual when you lose a game, but at the same time, you have to keep your head up. That’s a big part of this team.”
Shortly thereafter, Ponder connected with Bert Reed for yet another FSU score and followed that up with another Gano field goal.
“One of the keys is getting out of the half and stopping them, O’Brien said. “You never know when you can put three more points on the board.”
Gano would total four field goals on the night, including a 53-yarder to close out the fourth quarter.