Observations From the Game: FSU

First place in the Atlantic Division was on the line last Thursday night when NC State tangled with Florida State in a nationally televised matchup. The Wolfpack was able to rally from a 10-point deficit in the second half to come away with the victory.

First place in the Atlantic Division was on the line last Thursday night when NC State tangled with Florida State in a nationally televised matchup. The Wolfpack was able to rally from a 10 point deficit in the second half to come away with the victory and now control their own destiny in the race for a spot in the conference championship game.

Before you talk about anything else, you have to mention the atmosphere in Carter Finley stadium last Thursday. Even 30 minutes before the game started, the crowd- particularly the student section- was at a fever pitch and you knew the potential was there for it to be a special night for NC State. It was evident, especially early on that Florida State was rattled and out of sorts because of the noise. From the time that State tied the score at 21-21, the stadium was as electric as it's been in years and clearly played a factor in how the game was played out.

Getting off on the right foot
The first quarter has been a good one for NC State this year and it was no different against Florida State. After holding the Seminoles to a three and out, the Pack took the ensuing punt and proceeded to put together a 12 play, 51 yard drive that culminated in a Russell Wilson sneak from the FSU one yard line for the Pack's opening touchdown. State nickeled and dimed their way down the field with a variety of short passes and short runs with the key play coming on a second and ten play that resulted in a 9 yard pass to George Bryan that got the ball down to the Florida State two yard line. On the year, NC State has outscored their opponents, 73-28 in the first quarter.

Seminoles respond to Wilson's scintillating run
With the score 7-0 in favor of the Pack near the end of the first quarter and State driving, Russell Wilson pulled off a highlight reel-worthy run. Wilson scrambled up the middle and juked three times before leaving FSU LB Mister Alexander looking like he was stuck in cement. The play would go for 30 yards and set the Pack up with first and ten at the Florida State 44 yard line.

However, the play seemed to energize the Nole's defense more than it did the NC State offense. From that point forward, the Pack could muster just 16 yards of total offense the rest of the first half.

During that stretch Florida State pulled off a 75 yards drive to tie the score and then had to go just 18 yards for another touchdown after a Dean Haynes fumble. On the next drive FSU went 72 yards for a commanding 21-7 lead and for all intent and purposes, NC State looked like a team dead in the water. In fact, the half ended with the distinct feel of an FSU blowout in the making. Not so fast my friend.

Wilson takes command

The conventional wisdom over the last several years is that to beat Florida State, you have to run right at them. That was clearly the game plan for NC State in the second half and they returned to a successful formula of zone read runs and short, easy throws that have served them well in several other games this year.

NC State opened the third quarter with a 13 play, 73 yard drive that cut the Florida State lead to 21-14. The Pack ran the ball nine times with the longest rush being just eight yards excluding Russell Wilson's 10 yard scramble for the score. What the Pack was able to do was pick up 2, 3 and 4 yards on first down which kept them out of third and long and prevented the Noles from pinning their ears back to get after Wilson. When the Pack spread the field, FSU left the middle of the field unprotected which allowed Wilson to run in for the score.

Defense steps up and the game turns

In a game of this magnitude, turnovers are always critical and none were bigger than the Christian Ponder fumble caused by DT Natanu Mageo. In fact, Mageo was one of the real bright spots in this game as he routinely beat the Seminoles left guard en route to three tackles and two tackles for loss.

The play set the Pack up on a short field and a 20 yard run by Wilson knotted the score at 21. From the point forward, Carter-Finley was in pandemonium.

Wolfpack comes from behind for second time
Give the Pack credit for not folding after Russell Wilson threw an interception when State stood posied to take the lead in the fourth quarter. FSU promptly drove the ball downfield but Ponder's decision to break a QB run outside instead of cutting it up the field for a first down cost the Noles and forced a field goal.

State would respond with a phenomenal drive, the highlight being a monster 35 yard pass completion to Darrell Davis with the Pack facing fourth and four. After contemplating a field goal to tie the game, Tom O'Brien rethought the decision after some friendly encouragement from the crowd. Give him credit for a gutsy decision and an even gutsier call from offensive coordinator Dana Bible. State has run that play numerous times this year so it was somewhat surprising that George Bryan was so open in the back of the end zone.

Pack controls it's own destiny

After a Christian Ponder fumble secured the Pack's win, attention now turns to Clemson. Mustafa Greene will likely get his first start of the year and it should be a special game for the South Carolina native considering Clemson never recruited him heavily. If the Pack sticks to it's ball control offense, takes what the defense gives and limits the Tigers big plays in the run game, then the table is set for a special season for NC State. Who would've thought this possible for a team picked as one of the conference's worst in the preseason.

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