RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Wyatt Sexton got knocked down time and time
again. When he did stay on his feet, his passes rarely found their target.
Still, his team won, thanks to a defense every bit as stingy as
the one on the other side of the field.
"I love 'em, that's all I can say," Sexton said of his
Lorenzo Booker and James Coleman each ran for third-quarter
touchdowns, helping No. 11 Florida State (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 11 AP) rally past North Carolina
State 17-10 Thursday night in a game that featured 22 punts, four
turnovers and less than 250 yards of combined offense.
The Seminoles' victory was the 350th of legendary coach Bobby Bowden's career.
Last season, these two teams went to double overtime before the
Seminoles prevailed 50-44. It seems a lot longer than a year ago in
a lot of ways.
"It was a defensive war from the very beginning," Bowden said. "I hadn't seen a defensive battle like
that in a long time. Totally dominating."
Florida State (8-2, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) went deep
into the second quarter before its yardage total exceeded the
number of plays. Sexton finished 5-for-18 for only 73 yards, and
leading rusher Leon Washington was held to 56 yards on 18 carries
after missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury.
The only thing that kept Sexton on the field was an injury to
backup Chris Rix, who had a sore ankle and likely would have had a
tough time evading the pressure from NC State.
"If Chris had his wheels, I probably definitely would have"
changed quarterbacks, Bowden said. "Because we were getting sacked
so much, I feel like we've got to have a quarterback that moves around."
Still, it was enough. The lone touchdown for the Wolfpack (4-6,
3-5) came on Darrell Blackman's 87-yard punt return in the second
quarter that gave them a 10-0 lead. But even though they rotated
quarterbacks, they couldn't generate much offense after halftime.
They had only one first down -- fittingly, on a pass interference
penalty -- and 26 yards in the final two periods. Jay Davis and
Marcus Stone were a combined 9-for-25 for 100 yards as former NC State star quarterback Philip Rivers watched from the sidelines.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon, whose wife attended NC State, joined Rivers, but even he couldn't provide the necessary
karma to help the Wolfpack. They won't be going to a bowl for the
first time in five seasons under coach Chuck Amato.
"Things happen for a reason, and we'll learn from this and
improve," he said. "I'm proud of our kids for being in that game
and being in a position to win at the end."
After spending the entire first half on its own side of
midfield, Florida State started all five of its drives in the third
quarter in NC State's territory. Coleman capped the first one
with a 1-yard plunge to make it 10-7, and after a three-and-out by
the Wolfpack, the Seminoles needed to drive only 35 yards for the
Sexton completed a 25-yard pass to Booker on third-and-6 to set
up first-and-goal, and a play later, Booker raced in from the 4 to
give Florida State a 14-10 lead against what he called the best
defense the Seminoles had seen all season.
"Better than Miami's, better than Virginia's," Booker said.
"I say that because they were everywhere. It was like you break a
tackle or get outside, and there are three more guys coming."
Gary Cismesia added a 44-yard field goal late in the quarter to
complete the scoring. That kick came after a fumble by NC State
tailback T.A. McLendon gave the Seminoles the ball at the 15, and
even though three plays lost 11 yards, Cismesia still was close
"I've never been involved with a game like this," Amato said.
"We had the field position in the first half, and then had it in
the second half. Without a doubt, it was a defensive struggle."