Florida State struggles late, holds on to beat Wake Forest

Florida State Seminoles running back Johnathan Vickers (26) dives in for the touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Jeremy Brevard/Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Dalvin Cook made it look easy for No. 11 Florida State against Wake Forest once again. After he was hurt, things got awfully tough for the Seminoles.

Their 24-16 victory over the pesky Demon Deacons on Saturday wasn’t secure until Tyler Hunter’s diving interception in the end zone with 21 seconds to play, and coach Jimbo Fisher was left hoping his team can develop a stronger killer instinct.

"We need to see more guys wanting to step up and be that dude when the game’s on the line," defensive back Jalen Ramsey said. "I feel like it will come."

Cook ran 94 yards for a touchdown before leaving with what Fisher said was a left hamstring injury. His replacement, Johnathan Vickers, added a 9-yard touchdown run, and Everett Golson was 20 of 31 for 202 yards with a 5-yard TD to Kermit Whitfield.

"When we had an opportunity to put the game away (early), we didn’t do it," Fisher said. "That’s what really good football teams do, and we’ve got to learn to have that killer instinct and go do it."

Roberto Aguayo added a 25-yard field goal for the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Freshman Kendall Hinton was 27 of 42 for 215 yards against the nation’s No. 4 pass defense with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Cam Serigne.

Mike Weaver kicked three field goals for the Demon Deacons (2-3, 0-2), including a 29-yarder with 3:34 left that pulled them within eight. Coach Dave Clawson opted not to go for it on that fourth-and-1 from the 6 because if "you go for it and you don’t get it, the game is over.

"I wanted to put some pressure on them and make it a one-score game, and keep us in the football game," Clawson said.

Wake Forest forced a punt, got the ball back with 1:42 left and reached the Seminoles’ 20 before Hinton overthrew Serigne in the end zone and Hunter intercepted it.

"It just sailed on me," Hinton said. "Just a high pass. Got to be more accurate."

That finally sealed it for Florida State, a 20-point favorite that had won the last three meetings in the series by an average of 49 points, allowing the Demon Deacons two field goals — and nothing else — during that span.

It seemed like Florida State was about to pull away when Golson found Whitfield for a short scoring pass on the Seminoles’ first series of the second half, and Aguayo followed with his kick that put Florida State up 24-10 midway through the third.

"To me, the most important word in sports … is confidence," Fisher said. "Once you think you can do it, you end up doing it. … And we allowed them too much confidence."

But the sloppy Seminoles struggled to put away Wake Forest, finishing with 10 penalties for 100 yards and gaining just 213 total yards in the three-plus quarters after Cook was hurt.

"Too many silly penalties on defense," Fisher said.

Cook tweaked his hamstring while pulling in a seemingly innocuous 8-yard pass from Golson late in the first quarter.

He clutched the back of his leg on his way off the field and had it stretched on a trainer’s table, but didn’t return and spent the second half on the sideline in sweats.

Still, Cook — who leads the ACC and ranks fourth nationally with an average of 158.7 yards — finished as Florida State’s leading rusher with 94 yards. The Seminoles gained just 33 yards rushing after he was hurt.

The entirety of his rushing total came on that long run — the third-longest in Florida State history.

Box score

He took a handoff up the middle, shed hits by two defenders and didn’t come close to being touched again on his way to the end zone to make it 7-0.

At that point, it looked like the Seminoles were on their way to another laugher over the Demon Deacons.

It wound up being anything but.

"At times, we allowed them to make big plays that were defendable," Clawson said. "That’s the story of the game."