FSU had scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 7:09 to shake Georgia Tech 14-13 and remain positioned on the national landscape.
"This just showed the character of this team, the character of this defense. We never stopped (believing)," Samuels said, peering up at the appreciative crowd and breathing a sigh of relief.
The Seminoles just might be thanking their lucky stars today.
In fact, FSU coach Bobby Bowden admitted he had no idea how his 10th-ranked Seminoles managed to slip past the Yellow Jackets. The visitors outplayed FSU at every turn for three quarters before the Seminoles' offense finally got untracked.
Then, with the game on the line, FSU's defense once again helped save the day.
FSU averted its first home shutout in Bowden's 28 seasons and 30 years overall when quarterback Chris Rix scored on a 3-yard run with 7:09 left to pull to within 13-7. Rix's 5-yard touchdown pass to P.K. Sam and Xavier Beitia's extra point put the Seminoles ahead with 2:57 left.
``It doesn't seem like we won,'' Bowden said.
``It was 54 minutes of getting beat and 6 minutes of winning.''
With time slipping away in the fourth quarter, Rix and the offense found its composure. Out of sync most of the game with his receivers and stymied by the Yellow Jackets' swarming defense, Rix made his biggest plays under pressure.
"I just kept reminding myself not to try to get it all (back) at once," Rix said.
"I think in the past I tried to do it all on my own and try to get it all on one shot. I just kept thinking about how N.C. State came back (against Ohio State) and how Miami came back against Florida last week, we had time to execute and move the ball and get the ball in the end zone.
"All we needed was two touchdowns to get the lead. Coaches made good plays, we were able to execute. The line gave me time and the receivers made plays to get us first downs. I know I could have done a lot of things better but thankfully at the end I was able to give our guys a chance to make plays."
Rix scored FSU's first touchdown with 7:09 remaining on a 5-yard run up the middle, jamming his neck when he slid low but head-first into the end zone.
The Seminoles got the ball back with 4:56 left on their own 43- yard line. A hurting Rix completed a 19-yard pass to Chauncey Stovall to the Tech 19. Rix then scrambled to 6. On 2nd- and-goal from 5, Rix connected with wide open P.K. Sam on an end-zone fade for a touchdown with 2:57 remaining.
"It was supposed to be a slant route, but the corner would not let me inside. And Rix, I guess we were on the same page and he just threw it up," Sam said.
"I was just fortunate to make a play. We got off to a rough start and the defense held us through, and that's what a team is about. Rix hung in there. We told him, ‘We're behind you, we're behind you.' He just came through and made the plays.
"We just weren't clicking. That happens. You talk about a team, and a defense wins championships. That proved it tonight. Even though this wasn't a championship, it was a step towards one. When the offense struggled, the defense has to do that."
Georgia Tech had two final possessions to win the game, but each time, FSU's defense produced a turnover. Georgia Tech, a 24-point underdog, held the Seminoles scoreless through three quarters and had the home team rattled.
But, when it counted, FSU was able to rally.
"We weren't able to get a rhythm, they were playing very good defense, trying to bracket everything," Rix said of the Seminoles' struggles.
"Definitely shutting the run down. We knew at halftime we had to come out throwing the ball in the second half. My hats off to their defense. They did a great job. Fortunately, we were able to outplay them at the end."