TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Despite all the unpredictability across college football, one thing remains certain: Wake Forest does not score touchdowns inside Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State held the Demon Deacons out of the end zone at home for the fifth consecutive game – a streak which spans 21 quarters and 10 years – and Travis Rudolph erupted for the fourth-highest receiving total in school history as the No. 14 Seminoles downed Wake Forest, 17-6, in front of a homecoming crowd in Tallahassee.
Florida State (5-2, 2-2) has a week off before welcoming No. 3 Clemson to Tallahassee on Oct. 29.
“Good win, got to heal up now,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “…Coming down the stretch, we’ve got great football teams coming – Clemson, NC State, Boston College, Syracuse and Florida. It’s going to be a heck of a run.”
The Seminoles’ defense enjoyed another strong outing and, as a result, Rudolph nearly eclipsed the Demon Deacons’ yardage total all by himself.
The junior receiver caught 13 passes for 238 yards, while FSU limited Wake Forest (5-2, 2-2) to just 252 yards of offense and 3.8 yards per play.
It was the second 200-yard game of Rudolph’s career (He had 201 in last year’s Peach Bowl) and the second straight week that Charles Kelly’s defense has set a season low in yards allowed.
“Hats off to our defense,” Fisher said. “They were outstanding. They played the run tremendously well, pressured the quarterback, contested throws, created turnovers, created opportunities.
“And when they were pushed against the wall, they played their tails off.”
For the second time in as many games, the Seminoles set the tone with an early sack. This time, sophomore Josh Sweat brought down Wake’s John Wolford on the second play from scrimmage for his second sack of the season and second since last week’s game at Miami.
By the time it was over, the Seminoles had sacked Wolford five times – two from senior DeMarcus Walker, 1.5 from Sweat and half-sacks credited to Demarcus Christmas, Ro’Derrick Hoskins and Dontavious Jackson.
FSU’s pass-rush resurgence also paid dividends for the secondary, which got interceptions from Marquez White and Tarvarus McFadden as part of three Wake Forest turnovers.
“When we guard our man for four, five seconds, it’s going to be a sack or a turnover,” said senior cornerback Marquez White, who grabbed his first interception of the season.
Lined up across from a deceptively stout defense, the Seminoles’ offense took a little while to get going and didn’t score its first points – a 29-yard field goal from Ricky Aguayo – until the last play of the first quarter.
From there, though, Rudolph took over with the type of game that lived up to the promise from his finale in the Peach Bowl.
Rudolph caught four passes of at least 20 yards and averaged 18.3 yards per reception. And he came tantalizingly close to the end zone on a wild play at the end of the second quarter.
With the ball at FSU’s 41-yard line and 2 seconds on the clock, quarterback Deondre Francois heaved the ball toward the end zone, where it deflected off two Wake Forest defenders and into the arms of Rudolph.
He made two men miss at the 3-yard line before a mob of Demon Deacons brought him down a yard short of the goal line.
“We go through (tip drills) every Thursday. I just have to be in the right position,” Rudolph said. “…I really wanted to score.”
Rudolph will have to take solace in carving his name next to some all-time greats in the FSU record book. His 238 yards placed behind only Ron Sellers (260 against Wake Forest in 1968 and 259 against South Carolina that same season) and Peter Warrick (249 against Clemson in 1997) in schoo history.
“Any time you go get numbers, you look at it, it makes you feel good,” Fisher said. “It makes you play good.”
No surprise then that quarterback Deondre Francois had another solid outing as well. He threw for 319 yards and a touchdown, ran for another and crossed the 300-yard threshold for the third time this season.
And even though Francois turned the ball over twice, he responded to a third-quarter interception by completing his next 11 passes and finishing with a 59.4 completion percentage (22 of 37).
“I was just seeing it well,” Francois said. “Jimbo was calling it well. He was putting our offense in a position to be successful. We started to dial it up.”
Dalvin Cook added 115 yards on 25 carries to reach the century mark for the fourth straight game. However, the best news from Cook’s day came when he returned from an injury suffered while absorbing a big hit after a catch over the middle of the field.
When asked what happened on the play, Fisher responded: “Football.”
The hit jarred the ball loose – the first of two Cook fumbles – and sent him to the sideline for a series.
But he showed no ill effects for the rest of the game and even chased down Wake defensive end Josh Banks for a touchdown-saving tackle after Banks recovered a Francois fumble in the fourth quarter.
A touchdown would have cut FSU’s advantage to just one score. But after Cook’s tackle, FSU’s defense forced a three-and-out and Wake’s 40-yard field goal attempt deflected off the left upright and no good.
“That was a huge play in that football game,” Fisher said. “I mean, as big a play as there was. That just tells you the heart.”
Wilson leaves with an injury, status uncertain
Senior receiver Jesus Wilson left in the second quarter with a foot injury and did not return. He later appeared with crutches on the sideline, but Fisher did not yet have an update on the severity of his injury.
“Have to wait and see,” he said.
Wilson entered the game as FSU’s leading receiver. He had 29 catches for 388 yards through six games, and he had caught one pass for two yards at the time of his injury.