Oct. 5, 2006
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – After one quarterback change and two wins against ranked opponents, North Carolina State suddenly looks like an entirely different team.
Daniel Evans threw three touchdown passes – including the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter – to lead the Wolfpack to a 24-20 victory over No. 17 Florida State Thursday night, the second straight Atlantic Coast Conference win for a team that appeared to be going nowhere just a few weeks ago.
Evans connected with John Dunlap on a 12-yard score with 10:36 left for the Wolfpack (3-2, 2-0 ACC), which rallied from a 10-point third-quarter deficit behind another poised performance from a redshirt sophomore quarterback in his second career start.
It would have been hard to imagine the Wolfpack could manage this type of win only a few weeks ago. N.C. State was 1-2 after a last-play home loss to Akron and a humbling 37-17 loss at Southern Mississippi, which prompted coach Chuck Amato to elevate Evans past Marcus Stone.
Now, with wins against Boston College and Florida State, the once-dark mood around Carter-Finley Stadium has been replaced by jubilant rowdy crowds and players spilling out onto the field to celebrate as the clock expires.
“We’re right where we want to be,” Evans said. “We’re excited. We’re not going to get complacent on where we are.”
Andre Brown added 113 yards rushing, marking the second straight year Brown cracked the 100-yard mark against the Seminoles (3-2, 1-2).
Brown ran for 179 yards last year in a 20-15 road win, marking the Wolfpack’s third win in six tries against the Seminoles under Amato – an 18-year assistant at Florida State to Bobby Bowden before taking over here in 2000. In fact, the Wolfpack came in as the only ACC team with four wins against Florida State since the Seminoles joined the league 14 years ago.
Now N.C. State has another big win to celebrate against Amato’s former boss.
“It’s not really surprising to us,” said safety DaJuan Morgan, who intercepted a pass from Drew Weatherford in the final minutes to seal the win. “We came into those games (against Akron and Southern Miss) and we didn’t have the right mind-set that we have right now. We just believe that we can be No. 1, ACC champs.”
Evans completed 13 of 22 passes for 190 yards. And his scoring pass to Dunlap was eerily similar to the TD toss he threw to Dunlap with 8.5 seconds left in a 17-15 win against then-No. 20 Boston College two weeks ago.
With the Wolfpack facing a second down, Evans lobbed a perfectly thrown pass toward the back right corner of the end zone. Dunlap jumped over defender Patrick Robinson and came down with the football and a 24-20 lead.
“We’re going to call it ‘Dunlap’s Corner,”‘ Amato said.
The lead ultimately held up, but not by much. The Seminoles put together one last drive that started at their own 5 with 5:39 left, but the drive stalled at N.C. State’s 39 when Morgan intercepted Weatherford’s pass with about 2 1/2 minutes left. The Seminoles had burned their last timeout early in the fourth, allowing Evans and the Wolfpack to kill the clock to end it.
Now the Seminoles find themselves slipping further down the ACC’s Atlantic Division standings, creating a difficult road for them to return to the league championship game.
“We’ve got to win out,” said Brandon Warren, who had a 12-yard touchdown catch for a 20-10 lead late in the third quarter. “We’ve just got to get it together and get our team chemistry back together, and get moving.”
The Seminoles seemed to have control of momentum midway through the third quarter after a goal-line stand that included stopping Toney Baker inside the 1 when he leapt for the end zone on fourth down. The Seminoles then put together a 99-yard drive, ending when Weatherford connected with Warren with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
But the Wolfpack closed to 20-17 when Evans found Geron James for a 10-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the third. Then, after the Seminoles went three-and-out, Evans directed the 58-yard drive that ended with his TD toss to Dunlap.
“You never think you’ve got ’em, and yet, you think you might have them,” Bowden said. “But boy, you have to hand it to them. They just took the ball and drove it right on down for a score, then drove it for another score.”
Weatherford threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns for the Seminoles.
One of the biggest cheers of the night was reserved for several members of the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, who appeared on the field with the storied 114-year-old trophy after the first quarter. The Hurricanes share the RBC Center, located across the street from Carter-Finley Stadium, with the N.C. State men’s basketball team.