Florida State has depended on the defense all season long, and they did so again on Saturday. The offense put the defense in bad positions with three turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game. Two of those occurred inside the Florida State 40 yard line, and NC State turned those into 10 points. They held a 17-7 lead with 24 seconds left in the first quarter. They did not score again.
The Seminoles got after NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett early and often. They had four sacks on the day with three other quarterback hurries. Defensive end Demarcus Walker led the defense with two sacks on the game bringing his season total to 8.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher couldn't say enough about Walker's effort.
"He's outstanding," Fisher said. "But guys, he has been that way ever since camp started. I mean, he's been a leader. Football is important to him. His communication to me about teammates, leadership, things that go on in the team, I mean, this guy, it's his life. He loves playing football here and what it means to be a great player and a great teammate and has a lot of pride in himself. He did an outstanding job."
Brissett struggled to do anything with the ball for most of the game. He finished the day 27-47 for 209 yards and 1 touchdown, but nearly half of his yards came on the final drive of the game with the Seminoles up 17. In non-garbage time Brissett went just 18-36 for 129 yards and 1 touchdown. He averaged 3.58 yards per attempt. On that final drive he completed 8 passes for 79 yards before the Florida State defense stopped his quarterback sneak at the 1 yard line on the final play of the game.
Coach Fisher was proud of the way his team stood tall on the final play.
"That's what we talk about," Fisher said. "Every play. No matter what times in the game, there's no reason to take a play off, and you can't do that. They were outstanding in the game, and to hold them out of the end zone, it talks about their character."
The Florida State run defense was just as dominant as the pass defense. NC State averaged just 2.5 yards per rush for the game, and 2.8 yards per rush in non-garbage time. Brissett was NC State's most effective runner, but he finished the game at just 1.5 yards per carry. A lot of that had to do with the 8 tackles for loss that the Seminoles recorded. That is the second most tackles for loss the defense has had all season behind 9 against Boston College.
The Seminoles struggled to take Brissett down during the game in 2014, but coach Fisher was very pleased with the defense's ability to do so this season.
"...Putting pressure on their quarterback, and I thought we did this year, we got him on the ground," Fisher said. "Getting him on the ground and affecting him, not letting him run around and make plays, he's a heck of a player for them. So very proud of those guys."
NC State averaged just 3.71 yards per play, 3.4 in non-garbage time. That's the second lowest yards per play the defense has allowed all season behind Boston College at 3.36. The Seminoles held NC State to well below their season averages of 6.4 yards per passing attempt and 4.49 yards per carry against Power-5 opponents.
The Seminoles have had a number of good performances on defense this season, but what they were able to do against a good NC State offense may have been their best yet.