Game ball: No disrespect to Auden Tate or James Blackman (we’ll get to them in a minute), but Jacques Patrick deserves major credit for grinding out yards and moving the chains while FSU’s passing game sputtered in the first half. The junior running back has been waiting a long time to be a leader for the offense, and he delivered on Saturday with a 19-carry, 120-yard performance that also included FSU’s first rushing touchdown of the season. For a while, Patrick was the Seminoles’ leading receiver, too.
“The play don’t care who makes it,” Patrick said, echoing one of coach Jimbo Fisher’s favorite mantras. “We just feed off each other, that’s the biggest thing. At the end of the day, we’re one team.”
Honorable mention goes to Kyle Meyers, the sophomore defensive back who forced FSU’s first and second turnovers of the season. Meyers showed a nose for the ball in the second quarter when he snagged a ball popped up by a Wake receiver. That play gave the Seminoles possession at the Demon Deacons’ 30-yard line and led to a field goal that gave FSU a 13-12 lead at halftime. Later in the game, Meyers stemmed some Wake momentum by forcing a fumble at the Seminoles’ 29, only a few moments after the Deacons had struck for gains of 33 and 24 yards on the same drive.
“Kyle makes those plays in practice every day,” sophomore defensive end Brian Burns said. “That’s nothing new. I’m glad to see him do it in the game. He’s becoming a better player and I can’t wait to continue our journey together.”
Play of the game: Play of the game? How about play of the season. It could turn out that way. While FSU will play in bigger atmospheres in the weeks ahead, the Seminoles needed a win in the biggest way on Saturday. And for much of the afternoon, that was in doubt. But, staring at an 0-3 start, James Blackman and Auden Tate connected for a 40-yard touchdown pass that seemed to come from out of nowhere. The play accounted for nearly one-third of the Seminoles’ total passing yardage, and it happened at a time when nearly everyone in the stadium expected Fisher to play it safe and try to set up a field goal.
Instead, Fisher dialed up a play-action fake, Blackman rolled to his right and, given ample time to step into his throw, hit Tate with a pass that fell into his arms rights as he crossed the goal line. Wake’s Amari Henderson tried to interfere with Tate in hopes of breaking up the play, but the big-bodied receiver picked out the ball and brought it in for a score that might have equally stunned both fan bases.
“Who’s gunna make the play?”
“Auden Tate is gunna make the play.” pic.twitter.com/QYAdrn53is
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) October 1, 2017
“I didn’t even know,” Burns said. “I was talking to Coach (Brad) Lawing about some of the things that were going on on the field and everybody was looking up and I just heard the crowd go crazy. And I saw Tate with the ball celebrating, so I was just happy. Everybody went crazy.”
Turning point: Fisher raised a few eyebrows late in the game by opting to punt on fourth-and-one at Wake’s 39-yard line, but his reasoning was sound: Punter Logan Tyler had been pretty good at placing shorter punts, FSU’s defense was playing well and, with three timeouts in hand, the Seminoles could have both a short field and time on their side, provided they could get a stop. Charles Kelly’s unit did just that, pushing Wake backward and then forcing a punt that traveled only 35 yards to the Deacons’ 43-yard line. On the very next play, Tate was in the end zone.
It was over when: Even with their late lead, the Seminoles needed one more defensive stand to preserve their escape. With three timeouts of their own, the Demon Deacons drove to FSU’s 38-yard line with six seconds to play. But FSU played its Hail-Mary defense perfectly, and when Wake quarterback John Wolford launched a heave to the left corner of the end zone, Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden were each ready to make the play. James batted the pass down with ease, the clock hit zero and FSU could finally exhale.