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Wolfpack nearly topples FSU

11/15/2003

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.

"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.