Game ball: With all due respect to Nyqwan Murray (nine catches, 153 yards) and DeMarcus Walker (10 tackles, two sacks), this space is reserved for Deondre Francois, who completed his first game-winning, fourth-quarter drive on Saturday. And he did it while bouncing back from a play that nearly cost the Seminoles their best shot. NC State’s Shawn Boone, however, couldn’t hang on to a would-be interception in the end zone and Francois made the most of his second chance. He stood tall in the face of an all-out blitz and floated a pass to Travis Rudolph that Rudolph hauled in for a 19-yard TD. It was Francois’ only touchdown pass of the night, but it hardly could have come at a bigger moment. Francois finished the game 22-39 for 330 yards, crossing the 300-yard mark for the fourth time this season.
Play of the game: It may have gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle, but let’s give credit to Jacques Patrick, who turned in a tough, 2-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half that tied the score at 10-10 and allowed FSU to go into haltime with some confidence. The Seminoles at that point were probably fortunate to not be down by two or more scores, as NC State had largely controlled play for the first half, but had failed to capitalize– the Wolfpack missed one field goal attempt and had to settle for another that was about the length of an extra point. On his scoring run, Patrick was almost immediately met by an NC State defender, but the big sophomore’s legs never stopped churning as he found outside leverage and pushed his way through a gathered crowd on his way into the end zone.
Turning point: After Dalvin Cook scored to cut NC State’s lead to 20-17, it fell to Florida State’s defense to keep the Wolfpack off the scoreboard long enough to complete the rally. Charles Kelly’s group answered the bell by forcing punts on each of NC State’s next two possessions, which eventually led to FSU’s go-ahead score late in the fourth. FSU’s ability to slow down the Pack proved crucial: NC State had 285 yards and 13 points at halftime, but managed just 184 yards and a single touchdown after the break.
It was over when: Ryan Finley’s fourth-down pass sailed out of bounds and gave FSU possession with about a minute to go. It was a nervy sequence for the Seminoles, who, aided by a targeting penalty to freshman Brian Burns, allowed the Wolfpack to reach the FSU 24-yard line before standing firm. In a reversal of last week’s fortunes, FSU actually forced the Wolfpack backward on second-and-10, with Jacob Pugh and Matthew Thomas bringing down State’s Matt Dayes behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of two. A.J. Westbrook then defended Finley’s third-down pass and, out of a timeout, the Seminoles provided Finley no reasonable window in which to throw on fourth-and-12, and his pass fell harmlessly out of bounds to effectively seal the game.