No. 19 Florida State rallies past NC State 24-20

North Carolina State's Matt Dayes (21) dives for additional yards over Florida State's Matthew Thomas (6) and Brian Burns (99) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
AP

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) All those lofty preseason goals – making the College Football Playoff, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship – are gone for No. 19 Florida State.

Still, coach Jimbo Fisher sees a young group determined to finish strong.

Deondre Francois threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Rudolph with 3:09 left to help the Seminoles rally to beat North Carolina State 24-20 on Saturday night despite trailing most of the night.

Francois threw for 330 yards while Dalvin Cook ran for a touchdown on an otherwise quiet night for the Seminoles (6-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who never led until the final minutes. But they followed their go-ahead with a final stop to secure the win in a stadium where they had lost three of the last five visits.

''They still believe in each other, believe in what we're doing and they believe in this program,'' Fisher said. ''And they want to be a part of history and what this program has meant in the past. And I think that carries them today. There's a lot of pride in this group.''

The season hasn't gone as expected for FSU, which was ranked No. 4 in the preseason Top 25 but lost in a rout at Louisville, at home to North Carolina on a last-play field goal and then last week in a tight contest against Clemson.

Yet Cook said the team was focused on ''the way you finish'' as it secured bowl eligibility.

''This team right here, man, they just accept everything that comes with it,'' Cook said, adding: ''That's why this team right here is going to be a group to remember.''

While Florida State secured bowl eligibility, the Wolfpack (4-5, 1-4) only continued what has turned into a three-game tailspin since losing at Clemson.

N.C. State led 20-10 late in the third but didn't do enough to finish off the Seminoles when there were chances, most notably when Shawn Boone dropped a sure interception in the end zone one play before Rudolph's winning score. The Wolfpack had one last drive, but Ryan Finley overthrew Nyheim Hines on fourth down after the Wolfpack had driven near the red zone with about 2 minutes left.

''We've lost a lot of heartbreakers,'' Hines said. ''Every week it seems we're in a game and we just keep finding ways to lose instead of winning.''

THE TAKEAWAY

Florida State: The Seminoles had fallen out of contention in the Atlantic Division with last week's loss, but they showed they're going to keep fighting in a game where little more than becoming bowl eligible was on the line.

N.C. State: It's hard to figure where the Wolfpack goes from here. N.C. State has been unable to find its footing ever since the Clemson loss that started a four-game skid to put its bowl hopes in jeopardy. That frustration was evident when coach Dave Doeren ended his postgame news conference by crumpling up a piece of paper and slamming it into a trash can on the way out.

''For whatever reason,'' he said, ''we're not finding the one play that it takes to break a game open like that.''

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida State was flirting with being at risk of falling out of the AP Top 25 . A loss could've snapped a 79-week run in the poll, second-longest in the country, for a program that hasn't gone into a game unranked since 2011.

THE WINNING SCORE

Francois was under pressure when he lofted a ball on the left side to Rudolph, who got a step on a stumbling Boone and made the TD catch.

''That's a play we always practice, everyone knew what they were doing,'' Francois said.

BIG NIGHTS

Hines had a career-best 11 catches for 124 yards for the Wolfpack, while Matt Dayes ran for 104 yards.

UP NEXT

Florida State: The Seminoles get a Friday home game against Boston College and look to improve to 7-0 against the Eagles under Fisher.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack must win two of the final three games to become bowl eligible, starting with next week's trip to Syracuse.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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