The Seminoles hung on for a 38-31 victory at Arrowhead Stadium when Kendyll Pope and Jerel Hudson stuffed Cyclones quarterback Seneca Wallace 1 yard short of the goal line as time expired to preserve the victory.
The victory allowed Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden to pass Bear Bryant and move into second place among major college coaches with 324 victories.
"Iowa State played well enough to win,'' Bowden said. "They just wouldn't quit. They just wouldn't go away. We just killed ourselves with penalties and mistakes. We've got a lot of things we must straighten out. If we can't look at the film and see what we did wrong and get it straightened out, were in trouble.''
The Cyclones drove 64 yards and after Wallace scrambled 21 yards to the 1. With 4 seconds remaining, Wallace rolled right, elected to keep the ball and Pope made the initial contact before Hudson put him on the ground.
The plays sent the Seminoles into a wild celebration. But that celebration will not last long once the coaches and players watch what was a dreadful second half for the defense.
"When we were on the goal line we knew that everything we had worked for all summer came down to one single play,'' defensive end Alonzo Jackson said. "Fortunately we were able to keep them out of the end zone.''
The offense was in the familiar position of overcoming a defense that allowed several big plays, including two fourth quarter touchdowns. Pahokee's Anquan Boldin, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, caught two touchdown passes and Chris Rix threw for 210 yards.
Florida State (1-0) quieted the partisan Iowa State crowd of 55,132 early by streaking to a 24-0 lead. Rix established a connection with Boldin, whose first catch was on the game's first play and whose first touchdown of the season came on a 2-yard pass on the first play of the second quarter.
Rix was 17-of-25 and appeared much more poised behind center and in the pocket. He relied on Boldin, who had seven receptions for 89 yards and running back Greg Jones, who had 22 carries for 113 yards.
But just as quickly as the Seminoles jumped ahead -- thanks in part to two Iowa State turnovers -- Florida State allowed the Cyclones to crawl back into the game. The Cyclones got as close as seven points before Rix and Boldin hooked up again, for a 31-yard touchdown that gave Florida State a 38-24 lead with 8:15 to play.
"Before we even called the play I told the coaches to get the ball to me,'' Boldin said. "We got in the huddle and I told Chris to throw it to me even if I was double covered. When the ball was up in the air I adjusted to it at the last minute. I was determined to score.''
The Seminoles allowed another big play, a 39-yard scoring pass from Wallace to Jamual Montgomery with 5:26 to play to cut the lead to 38-31. When the offense was forced to punt, Iowa State had 2:32 to complete a comeback that would have been as devastating as any loss suffered by last season's 8-4 team.
"Those guys really took it to us,'' Jackson said. "We have a lot of things to correct when we get back to Tallahassee. Seneca Wallace played great, especially in the second half. He is a very talented quarterback. He ran well and he threw some pinpoint passes. Anytime you have a great quarterback like that, you have a chance to win the game.''
Wallace finished 22-of-33 for 313 yards and two touchdowns.
"He was everything we thought he would be,'' Bowden said.
Said Iowa State coach Dan McCarney: "We really grew up in the second half. I saw my team mature a lot.''
Early in the game, Florida State looked as though the good old days had returned. The Seminoles drove 80 yards on the first series, capping the drive with a 5-yard touchdown by Nick Maddox.
The defense then made its first contribution of the season when Jackson returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown. Jackson also had a sack of Wallace in the final drive that forced Iowa State to use a timeout.