By Bob Thomas
Associate Sports Information Director
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On a day when top-ranked Florida State never quite found its offensive rhythm the Seminoles rode a dominating defensive effort and the right leg of redshirt sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo to a 43-3 victory over Wake Forest.
Aguayo matched a Florida State single-game school record with five field goals and linebacker Reggie Northrup stripped Demon Deacons tailback Isaiah Robinson of the ball and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown as the Seminoles scored 43 unanswered points to extend their nation-leading winning streak to 21 games.
That’s no small feat, when you consider four of the top six teams in the Associated Press poll – Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas A&M – all suffered losses this week.
“Every win is a big win,” said FSU junior safety Tyler Hunter. “A lot of teams, like you see, are getting knocked off, so we have to appreciate it.”
By improving to 5-0 on the season – 3-0 in ACC play – the Seminoles delivered head coach Jimbo Fisher his 50th career win in his just his 60th game. Fisher becomes just the 10th coach in major college history to reach 50 victories in his fifth season.
“I’m very proud of our defense today,” Fisher said. “I thought they were outstanding. They tackled, kept contain; totally dominated the game…It was their day.”
Wake Forest (2-4, 0-2) managed just 126 total yards, including 40 rushing yards on 39 carries and just 86 yards through the air. The Seminoles amassed a season-high 11 tackles for loss, added an interception and two fumble recoveries.
The defensive performance came on the heels of an underwhelming effort at NC State, which was marred by missed tackles and busted assignments and led to a long week on the practice field.
“This was maybe our toughest, but also one of our best weeks of practice,” FSU defensive end Mario Edwards said. “We charted what we did [at NC State] and we missed 36 tackles and had 56 loafs, so when we counted those out, it wasn’t really punishment because we did those things (but) there were consequences for it. We had to condition. We had to go back to fundamentals…It was a pretty physical week and it just translated over to the game.”
Of course, Aguayo’s day wasn’t too bad, either. The Mascotte, Fla., native was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, setting and extending his school record for consecutive conversions to 21. His streak dates back to an errant attempt from 43 yards at Wake Forest on Nov. 9 of last season – the only miss of his career – and included nine successful attempts to close the National Championship season and his first 12 attempts this year.
His five field goal performance is the first by a Seminole kicker since Gary Cismesia did it against Miami in 2007.
“You take advantage of those opportunities,” Aguayo said. “I don’t get that much. Last week I got no field goal opportunities…I took advantage of it. I’m happy and I’m glad. If it’s seven field goals or none, it doesn’t matter.”
For a long while it appeared Aguayo’s field goals would matter as the FSU offense sputtered throughout the first half. His second of the game, with three seconds remaining in the half, gave the Noles a 13-3 lead at the break.
The Seminoles blew the game open in the second half scoring landslide, which began with Aguayo’s 52-yard field goal and finished with his 32-yarder with 4:53 remaining. In between the Noles received touchdown contributions from Northrup, tailback Mario Pender (5-yard run) and freshman receiver Travis Rudolph’s 59-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston.
Winston finished 23 of 39 for 297 yards with an interception. His scoring strike to Rudolph, with 9:10 remaining, extended his consecutive game streak of touchdown passes to 18.
FSU’s 475 yards of total offense were slow developing.
“Offensively, we had some turnovers early, which is inexcusable,” Fisher said. “We got out of synch, but it was very big right before the half. We had a big drive – the defense set us up – we had good field position. Then we were able to steal three points right before the half by getting kickoff and pinning them back.”
The first of two first half field goals by Aguayo – a 43-yarder with 11:46 remaining – pulled the Seminoles even at 3-3.
Following a three-and-out series on their next possession, the Seminoles marched 50 yards in six plays, highlighted by Winston’s 18-yard pass to Jarred Haggins. Winston finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and Aguayo’s point-after put the Noles in front for the first time, 10-3 with 1:03 remaining.
With the defense rising to the occasion and Fisher utilizing FSU’s three remaining timeouts, Wake Forest was forced to punt. The Noles took over at the Demon Deacons’ 40 with 32 seconds remaining and a pair of Winston-to-Jesus Wilson completions netted 27 yards. Aguayo closed out the half with a 40-yard field for 10-point margin at intermission.
Two first half turnovers contributed to a lethargic start by the Seminoles, who spotted the Demon Deacons a 3-0 lead when Mike Weaver converted a 36-yard field goal with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter. The Demon Deacons’ first points at Doak Campbell Stadium since 2008 came at the end of a 23-yard drive following a Karlos Williams fumble.
With the Seminole defense teeing off against the young and out-manned visitors, Wake Forest managed minus-15 yards on 13 offensive snaps for the balance of the half.