3:30 PM ET, October 23, 2004
BB&T FIELD, WINSTON-SALEM, NC
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Wyatt Sexton grew up a Florida State fan, a proud supporter of the team his father once quarterbacked.
Rarely -- if ever -- did those Seminoles struggle with Wake Forest.
The Florida State quarterback changed that with an up-and-down outing Saturday that forced the No. 5 Seminoles to fight for a 20-17 victory over Wake Forest.
"I never thought growing up we would have to sneak one out of Wake Forest," Sexton said.
The Seminoles did, in large part because of Sexton's play.
He had three costly turnovers -- two of which were returned for touchdowns that had the Seminoles (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) trailing 14-10 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Then, after putting Florida State on top 17-14 with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Robinson, he threw his second interception of the game to open the door for Wake Forest's game-tying field goal.
Florida State needed a 22-yard field goal by Xavier Beitia with 1:03 to play to pull out the win.
"In the first half, we played like crap," Sexton said. "The defense was coming with blitz, after blitz, after blitz, and I was confused. They were shifting all over the place and making things very tough for me."
That's because Wake Forest (3-4, 0-4) is not exactly a pushover, despite being winless in conference play.
The Demon Deacons have not been easy opponent for anyone, taking Clemson and North Carolina State into overtime and battling down to the wire against Virginia Tech and the Seminoles. Their four ACC losses are by a combined 23 points.
"I think we're getting better as we go," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "I think the level of competition that we're playing is incredible. We're a good enough football team to win some down the stretch."
Still, Florida State is not supposed to struggle with the ACC's bottom-feeders. The Seminoles have a 20-2-1 career record against Wake Forest, and have won all 13 meetings since joining the ACC.
"I'm very happy and lucky to be here to win this game," coach Bobby Bowden said.
It was clear early Sexton wasn't going to have the same kind of day he did last week when he completed 20 of 26 passes for a career-high 275 yards in the Seminoles' dismantling of Virginia.
He got off to a bad start when he was called for intentional grounding on the third play of the game, and it just got worse from there. Jerome Nichols had the first of his two tipped passes late in the first quarter and Matt Robinson intercepted it, returning it 19 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Wake Forest lead.
Sexton later fumbled on a sack by Eric King, and Brad White scooped the ball up and rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown that put Wake Forest up 14-3 right before halftime.
But Wyatt got some third-quarter help from Willie Reid, who returned a punt 48 yards to the Wake Forest 14. After Lorenzo Booker lost yards on a fumble, the Seminoles went to Reid to put points on the board with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Sexton that cut Wake Forest's lead to 14-10.
Sexton wasn't able to give Florida State's its first lead of the game until the fourth quarter, when he threw a 46 yard touchdown pass to Robinson to put the Seminoles up 17-14 with 9:59 to go.
But Sexton gave Wake Forest another chance late in the fourth quarter when he foolishly attempted a pass that was tipped by Nichols and intercepted by freshman Jeremy Thompson.
That set up Ryan Plackemeir's 41-yard field goal that tied the game at 17 with 4:32 to play.
Florida State then needed a 46-yard run by Booker on third-and-10 and a 14-yard pass from Sexton to Robinson on third-and-6 to set up the winning field goal.
Despite the miscues, Sexton improved to 4-0 as a starter since taking over for Chris Rix. Sexton finished 17-for-39 for 194 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a fumble.
Wake Forest, averaging 221.7 yards rushing a game, struggled against the nation's best run defense.
Florida State held the Deacons to 133 yards on the ground.
Beitia also made a 44-yarders, but had a blocked field goal in the first quarter when Thompson, making his first career start, got a hand on the 38-yard attempt.
Plackemeier also missed a 39-yarder.
Wake Forest's Jason Anderson had six catches for 99 yards to become the only active player in the ACC to go over 2,000 yards receiving.