For the third time in the past four seasons, the Demon Deacons (2-4) gave the fourth-ranked Seminoles (5-0) fits for stretches. But ultimately, Wake wasn't dialed in long enough to have anything to show for their efforts Saturday afternoon.
FSU led by just three heading into fourth quarter but eventually fashioned a 41-24 victory was its 14th consecutive in a series that dates back to 1956 but became an annual encounter in 1992 when the Seminoles joined the ACC.
"We knew coming in that Wake was going to give us problems," center David Castillo said. "They do every year. We were fortunate that we had a few ways to attack them where we had advantages and we were able to exploit that."
The most significant upper hand Saturday was wide receiver Greg Carr, who used his 6-foot-6 frame to pull down three receptions for 129 yards. The freshman's most critical catch was a 63-yarder that set up an FSU touchdown after Wake had pulled to within 20-17.
The gravest concern for the Seminoles lasted just 33 seconds, the time it took for quarterback Drew Weatherford to pilot the Seminoles to some breathing room and respond to a disconcerting touchdown run by Wake tailback Chris Barclay in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
Comfort for the Seminoles came in the form of a 16-yard touchdown pass from Weatherford to slanting freshman receiver Fred Rouse with 14:27 to play.
"When the pressure was on, both of those guys really came through for us in the clutch," said Weatherford, whose career-high 352 yards pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark for the season. "Our freshman made some huge plays today."
FSU scored touchdowns on two of its next three drives to transform the upset bid into a rout.
"We had them on the ropes," Barclay said. "We had them backed up and needing a breather. We needed to come for blood and close it out but we didn't."
Barclay - the ACC's active leader in career rushing - tallied 125 yards on 21 carries for the Deacons. All told, Wake pierced the nation's 6th best run defense for 247 yards Saturday.
Increasing ground success peaked with Barclay's 31-yard score, but the Wake defense couldn't string together another stop at the expense of an FSU offense that started strong and finished strong but was quiet in between.
"At that point I thought that if we got off the field and give it back to the offense, it was going to get real interesting," Wake coach Jim Grobe said.
Enter the heroics of Carr. Facing third-and-15 from his own 21, Weatherford jettisoned a blitz-induced wobbler that looked destined for disaster.
But like a rebounder on the basketball hardwood, Carr came down with over 5-fot-10 corner Kevin Patterson. When Patterson whiffed on the tackle, Carr raced down the sidelines to set up Rouse's score.
"When the ball is in there air, it belongs to me," Carr said. "I have to be able to come down the jump ball. That is what I was brought here to do."
"It was a sigh of relief jogging down the field," Castillo added.
Weatherford tossed three touchdown passes and added another on a 1-yard sneak, pushing his season total to an even dozen. Wyatt Sexton (eight passing) and Chris Rix (three passing, one rushing) produced 12 touchdowns all of last season.
FSU's ground game also got its biggest jolt of the year from Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, who combined for 181 yards on 22 carries.
Washington added 92 yards receiving, 61 of which came on a screen play that he broke for his first career receiving touchdown. The senior from Jacksonville has reached the end zone for rushing, receiving, punt return and kickoff return touchdowns in his career.
The Seminoles totaled 27 first downs Saturday, their best total in nearly three seasons.
"For the first time in awhile, I thought the offense enabled us to win a ball game," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "They really came through for us today."
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