Still Alive

RALEIGH, N.C. – With both teams boasting defenses ranked in the nation's top 10, it was expected that this primetime meeting between Florida State and North Carolina State would be a struggle for points. It was. The featured 22 punts, four turnovers and less than 250 yards of combined offense. But, the best news was the Seminoles escaped with a much-needed road victory to keep their Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes alive.

What actually transpired went beyond those expectations.

FSU (8-2, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) awoke after a dismal first half to outdistance the Wolfpack (4-6, 3-5) 17-10 in a game that featured more punts (22) than first downs (16) and just 244 offensive yards from both teams combined.

The victory sustained slim hopes of a possible conference title and BCS bowl berth for the Seminoles. FSU sits one game behind Virginia and Virginia Tech in the ACC standings.

"Tonight it was an old fashioned defensive battle," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said.

"We are fortune to win this game. We're just happy to get out of here with a win and to stay in the ACC race."

After punting on all eight of its first-half possessions, FSU scored on three of its first four possessions after the break to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 17-10 advantage.

James Coleman and Lorenzo Booker ran for scores and Gary Cismesia nailed a 44-yard field goal, each capping a drive that started within N.C. State territory.

Meanwhile, the Wolfpack committed two costly turnovers and could not advance past their own 30 during that span. T.A. McLendon's fumble led to the Cismesia field goal. A fumble by tight end T.J. Williams negated what would have been his team's initial first down of the half.

"We were committed to turning things around in the second half," linebacker Ernie Sims said.

The 'Pack didn't gain a first down in the second half until 6:22 to play in the fourth and failed to take advantage of a pair of FSU turnovers.

N.C. State used a field goal and a critical special teams play to jump on top in the early going.

After seven straight punts by both teams to open the game, the 'Pack finally took advantage its superior field position. It didn't take much – a poor punt by Chris Hall gave them possession at the FSU 26. John Deraney's 28-yard try was good on the first play of the second quarter.

Another three-and-out by the Seminoles set the stage for Darrell Blackman, who responded with the only spark in an uneventful first half - an 89-yard punt return for a score. Blackman fielded the Hall punt – a 61-yarder - at his own 13 and appeared to be swallowed by the coverage before emerging from a crowd of FSU defenders and racing down the sideline for the score.

"Usually in games like this you see that the kicking game becomes the difference," Bowden said.

"That almost was the case for them."

Backed up and beaten down, Florida State managed next to nothing offensively until its third-quarter stretch. On average, the Seminoles started at their own 16. They managed just 38 yards before the half.

Take away a 15-yard run by Leon Washington on the game's second play from scrimmage and the Seminoles netted minus-13 yards on its first 14 plays.

"It was old-school out there," Booker said.

"It was raining. It was muddy. We were grinding it out. The numbers aren't pretty but we'll take it."

Wyatt Sexton continued his road woes, finishing 5-for-18 for 73 yards including a third-quarter interception. Washington (56 yards) and Booker paced the Seminoles on the ground.

The Seminoles called seven rushes before running their first pass play and ran on 12 of its first 14 plays from scrimmage.

FSU wraps up its regular season Nov. 20 against rival Florida.

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