RALEIGH, N.C. – The game, the season, the national title hopes all unraveled in one stunning fourth-quarter by N.C. State.
Florida State had a 16-point lead at halftime only to see N.C. State rally and score on a 3-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to Quintin Payton with 16 seconds left as the Wolfpack took a 17-16 win over the No. 4 Seminoles at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“We let one slip away from us,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
EJ Manuel laid on the field for a few moments after his desperation Hail Mary pass fell incomplete and short of the end zone as time expired.
The Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) were in position to win after Mike Rose blocked a Cason Beatty punt with just under three minutes left, and N.C. State recovered at FSU’s 43.
“Nobody gets punts blocked anymore,” Fisher said. “We have got to get that fixed.”
N.C. State used a pass interference penalty on Xavier Rhodes to take a first down on FSU’s 14 with 1:31 left. And on fourth down, Glennon found Payton over the middle for the touchdown and Niklas Sade made the extra point to put the Wolfpack ahead.
FSU (5-1, 2-1) was attempting to open 6-0 for the first time since 1999, the last time they won the national title.
Chris Thompson ran for 141 yards, and Dustin Hopkins made three field goals for FSU, which often fell short on the goal line and settled for three points instead of seven.
EJ Manuel threw a touchdown pass to Nick O’Leary as FSU (6-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) overcame second-half offensive struggles to survive its first conference road game.
FSU had won its first five games by double figures, but after jumping ahead 16-0 at the half found itself on the ropes – and then knocked out – in the fourth quarter.
Manuel was hit-and-miss, connecting on 17 of 28 passes for 218 yards. And he also tossed his second interception of the season, a crucial mistake on a third-quarter drive into N.C. State territory that could have put the game away.
N.C. State quickly capitalized, as Glennon connected with Shadrach Thornton on a 24-yard touchdown pass that trimmed FSU’s lead to 16-10 with 13:47 left in the game.
FSU’s defense then forced N.C. State to punt with 6:09 left in the game, and the Wolfpack turned the ball over on downs at the FSU 32 with 2:47 left. But N.C. State had one more chance with the blocked punt.
A week after Glennon passed for 440 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to Miami, FSU held N.C. State to just 68 first-half yards (41 passing and 27 rushing).
Terrence Brooks also had an interception of Glennon, who was 6 of 13 passing in the first half but finished the game 30 of 55 for 259 yards.
FSU struggled to punch the ball into the end zone once it got near the goal line, but the Seminoles settled for three Hopkins field goals (49, 20, 36).
Hopkins, a senior, is now in ninth place on the NCAA’s kicker scoring list with 387 points, well within reach of the all-time leader, Louisville’s Art Carmody, who had 433 points from 2004-07.
FSU must now regroup for a home game against Boston College next Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
“We’re 5-1, it’s disappointing that we lost the game but we can still control our own destiny in the ACC,” Fisher said. “We have to refocus and not let one game (loss) become two. Come back and play a good ballgame.”