No. 16 FSU fumbles late in 28-24 loss to NC State

North Carolina State and Florida State found themselves in

similar positions: inside the 5-yard line in the final minutes,

with a chance to score a go-ahead touchdown.

The Wolfpack executed. The 16th-ranked Seminoles bumbled.

Russell Wilson threw a fourth-down touchdown pass to George

Bryan with 2:40 left, then Nate Irving recovered a fumble in the

closing minute on the Seminoles’ final drive to give N.C. State a

28-24 win Thursday night in a matchup of Atlantic Coast Conference

division contenders.

Wilson ran for three scores for the Wolfpack (6-2, 3-1), who

trailed 21-7 at the break before ending a three-game losing streak

to the Seminoles (6-2, 4-1). With the win, N.C. State surpassed its

victory total for last season and matched its best year under

fourth-year coach Tom O’Brien.

Now N.C. State enters November with a shot to win the Atlantic

Division and claim a spot in the league championship game.

”We’ve got to go through it again,” O’Brien said. ”We’re in a

must-win mode each and every week, if we want to go to


Trailing 24-21, the Wolfpack drove to the FSU 1-yard line only

to have the Seminoles stop Wilson on a pair of sneaks and stuff

James Washington’s leap over the line on third down. The Wolfpack

appeared ready to kick a field goal, but called timeout and sent

the offense back out on the field.

This time, Wilson rolled to his right on a play-action fake,

then found Bryan alone near the back of the end zone for the 28-24


”I think (the coaches) had a second to think about it and it

was a good decision,” Wilson said. ”We were at home, on the

1-inch yard line. We had to get in.”

Still, Christian Ponder – who ran for a pair of scores and threw

for one – nearly rallied the Seminoles, driving Florida State all

the way to the N.C. State 4 in the final minute. The Seminoles even

ran their own play-action pass as N.C. State had done moments


But Ponder extended the ball too far on the fake as tailback Ty

Jones ran by. Jones bumped the ball with his hip, knocking it free

and to the turf. Irving – playing through the pain of a thumb

injury suffered earlier in the quarter – pounced on the loose ball

at the 9 with 48 seconds left.

Wilson came in leading the league at 303 yards per game, but

finished with 178 yards on 18 for 28 passing against the league’s

top scoring defense. Still, he capped the Wolfpack’s first drive

with a 1-yard keeper for a score, then followed with a 10-yard

scoring run early in the third and a 20-yard sprint up the middle

midway through the period that erased the 21-7 halftime deficit and

tied the game.

Wilson’s winning TD toss allowed him to bounce back from an

interception on a badly thrown ball around the FSU 10 early in the

fourth. The Seminoles converted that turnover into a field goal for

a 24-21 lead with 9:07 left.

”His legs won the game,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. ”It was

two quarterbacks making plays, and they made one more than we did

at the end.”

Ponder threw for 196 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to Willie

Haulstead to go with a pair of rushing scores – all in the second

quarter. He also had his own critical miscue, fumbling in a

collapsing pocket deep in his own end of the field to set up

Wilson’s 20-yard score that tied the game in the third.

”We had it in hand,” Ponder said. ”We had been rolling and

playing really well, and it was the first time in a while that we

had control of our own destiny in the ACC.”