NC State 44

(7-4, 4-3 ACC)

(13) Florida State 50

(9-2, 7-1 ACC)

Coverage: ABC Regional coverage

3:30 PM ET, November 15, 2003

Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, FL

1 2 3 4 2OT T
NCST 14 6 10 7 744
#13FSU 7 10 17 3 1350

Wolfpack nearly topples FSU

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato said he'd do it again.

Passing up a field goal in a second overtime, his Wolfpack failed to score and Florida State's Leon Washington scooted 12 yards untouched into the end zone a couple of plays later to give the Seminoles (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today; No. 13 Associated Press) a 50-44 victory and yet another Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Jerrico Cotchery

N.C. State receiver Jerricho Cotchery (right) and FSU defender Rufus Brown dive for the ball.

"I will never play not to lose," Amato said. "We were going to be the aggressors. So be it."

North Carolina State (7-4, 4-3 ACC) had already missed a field goal and extra-point try.

"We were thinking, 'kick it,' but then decided, 'what the heck,"' said Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers. "If we had one play to run the rest of our lives, it would be that play."

Instead of trying a field goal, the Wolfpack went on fourth-and-1 at the Florida State 16 and Rivers' pass for Jerricho Cotchery was broken up by Allen Augustin at the 5.

"I guess I disrupted him enough that he lost his concentration," said Augustin, a former walk-on who won the starting middle linebacker position last season midway through his junior year.

Washington's 12-yard touchdown run wrapped up the Seminoles' 11th Atlantic Coast Conference title in 12 years and ended a two-year losing streak to Amato, a former longtime assistant at Florida State.

And Washington liked the geography on the final carry.

"The hole was as big as a valley in Virginia or somewhere," the sophomore tailback said. "I just went straight ahead."

Washington, who finished with 121 yards on 17 carries, ran for 13 yards on the previous play when junior star receiver Craphonso Thorpe suffered a suspected broken right leg.

The Seminoles banged out 272 yards on the ground that included a 71-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Lorenzo Booker.

Florida State (9-2, 7-1) also locked up its fourth BCS game in five years after surviving a brilliant performance by Rivers.

The ACC's career passing leader, Rivers completed 28 of 38 passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score.

"If you all don't put him up in New York (Heisman Trophy ceremony in December), you're all nuts," Amato said about his quarterback. "He's the best there is."

Rivers has now passed for 12,733 yards and 90 touchdowns in his career going into the Wolfpack's season finale against Maryland next Saturday.

"I can never say enough about their quarterback," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "You know he's going to score."

Florida State took a 44-37 lead in the first overtime on 4-yard TD throw by Chris Rix to Thorpe, but North Carolina State countered on a 7-yard scoring throw from Rivers to Tramaine Hall.

Regulation play ended when North Carolina State's Derek Morris blocked a 32-yard field goal try by Florida State's Xavier Beitia with only 2 seconds left.

The Seminoles had gotten the ball with 2:13 remaining when the Wolfpack's Brian Clark fumbled after a catch on his own 42.

Beitia had already kicked three field goals for the Seminoles, his last one putting them into a 37-30 advantage midway through the final quarter.

North Carolina State tied it at 37 with 4:06 left on Rivers' 44-yard touchdown pass to Hall.

Florida State got a huge break in the last minute of the half when T.A. McLendon fumbled on a third down at his own three and the Seminoles' Brodrick Bunkley recovered. After a run for no gain and a penalty, Rix zipped a 7-yard scoring pass to Thorpe to pull Florida State within 20-17 at halftime.

The Wolfpack had taken a 20-10 lead, in part benefiting from a couple officiating calls. Florida State was called for holding on a fourth down punt, giving the 'Pack a first down at its 42.

Six plays later, Cotchery's second touchdown on a short pass from Rivers was allowed although he fumbled right at the goal line.

Rix's 12th interception of the season resulted in a 43-yard touchdown return by 285-pound Wolfpack tackle Alan Halloway. Under pressure, Rix threw the ball across the field right to Halloway, who then brushed off the quarterback on his way to the end zone.

Cotchery made 10 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the game.