Nov. 11, 2004
By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. – Wyatt Sexton got knocked down time and time again. When he did stay on his feet, his passes rarely found their target.
Still, his team won, thanks to a defense every bit as stingy as the one on the other side of the field.
“I love ’em, that’s all I can say,” Sexton said of his defensive teammates.
Lorenzo Booker and James Coleman each ran for third-quarter touchdowns, helping No. 11 Florida State rally past North Carolina State 17-10 Thursday night in a game that featured 22 punts, four turnovers and less than 250 yards of combined offense.
Last season, these two teams went to double overtime before the Seminoles prevailed 50-44. It seems a lot longer than a year ago in a lot of ways.
“It was a defensive war from the very beginning,” Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said. “I hadn’t seen a defensive battle like that in a long time. Totally dominating.”
Florida State (8-2, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) went deep into the second quarter before its yardage total exceeded the number of plays. Sexton finished 5-for-18 for only 73 yards, and leading rusher Leon Washington was held to 56 yards on 18 carries after missing the previous two games with a shoulder injury.
The only thing that kept Sexton on the field was an injury to backup Chris Rix, who had a sore ankle and likely would have had a tough time evading the pressure from N.C. State.
“If Chris had his wheels, I probably definitely would have” changed quarterbacks, Bowden said. “Because we were getting sacked so much, I feel like we’ve got to have a quarterback that move around.”
Still, it was enough. The lone touchdown for the Wolfpack (4-6, 3-5) came on Darrell Blackman’s 87-yard punt return in the second quarter that gave them a 10-0 lead. But even though they rotated quarterbacks, they couldn’t generate much offense after halftime.
They had only one first down – fittingly, on a pass interference penalty – and 26 yards in the final two periods. Jay Davis and Marcus Stone were a combined 9-for-25 for 100 yards as former N.C. State star quarterback Philip Rivers watched from the sidelines.
“I hadn’t seen a defensive battle like that in a long time. Totally dominating.”
Coach Bobby Bowden
Boston Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon, whose wife attended N.C. State, joined Rivers, but even he couldn’t provide the necessary karma to help the Wolfpack. They won’t be going to a bowl for the first time in five seasons under coach Chuck Amato.
“Things happen for a reason, and we’ll learn from this and improve,” he said. “I’m proud of our kids for being in that game and being in a position to win at the end.”
After spending the entire first half on its own side of midfield, Florida State started all five of its drives in the third quarter in N.C. State’s territory. Coleman capped the first one with a 1-yard plunge to make it 10-7, and after a three-and-out by the Wolfpack, the Seminoles needed to drive only 35 yards for the go-ahead score.
Sexton completed a 25-yard pass to Booker on third-and-6 to set up first-and-goal, and a play later, Booker raced in from the 4 to give Florida State a 14-10 lead against what he called the best defense the Seminoles had seen all season.
“Better than Miami’s, better than Virginia’s,” Booker said. “I say that because they were everywhere. It was like you break a tackle or get outside, and there are three more guys coming.”
Gary Cismesia added a 44-yard field goal late in the quarter to complete the scoring. That kick came after a fumble by N.C. State tailback T.A. McLendon gave the Seminoles the ball at the 15, and even though three plays lost 11 yards, Cismesia still was close enough.
“I’ve never been involved with a game like this,” Amato said. “We had the field position in the first half, and then had it in the second half. Without a doubt, it was a defensive struggle.”