TSX: Pack Not Satisfied

There won't be any worries about whether North Carolina State will qualify for a bowl bid this year. For the first time in Tom O'Brien's four years in Raleigh, that has been assured by the end of October.

Instead, what the 28-24 victory over Florida State accomplished was to keep the Wolfpack in the running for the ACC title, and the BCS berth that goes with it.

And if that happens, a big reason will be the decision to go for the end zone on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line late in the game.

With less than three minutes to play, the Wolfpack were down by three. Kick the chip-shot field goal and N.C. State would force overtime unless the Seminoles can drive down the field and score. That seemed to be N.C. State's plan when it initially sent out its field-goal unit.

But O'Brien called timeout to talk things over, and when play resumed, the starting offense was back on the field. Russell Wilson found tight end George Bryan in the end zone, and the Wolfpack had the lead.

"When the field-goal team went on, we knew we had some time still on the clock," O'Brien said. "(Offensive coordinator) Dana (Bible) was yelling at me to go for six, so we let the clock run down and then called a timeout. We thought we had a great play, and Russell made a good throw to George."

Florida State did drive down the field, all the way to the 4-yard line. But because North Carolina State had gotten the ball in the end zone, a field goal would do the Seminoles no good, and while setting up a pass into the end zone, quarterback Christian Ponder made contact with his own tailback. The ball popped out, Nate Irving fell on it, and N.C. State ran out the clock.

"It was a man-to-man play where we had a blitz on one side and coverage in the back," Irving said. "I saw the quarterback play-action fake, so I stepped up and I saw he had a loose grip on the ball, so I just kept going and it popped out."

N.C. State has a tough schedule remaining, with three road games in the last four, including a tough one this weekend at Clemson. But heading into the second half of the ACC slate, O'Brien's team is playing for a BCS berth, which is a lot better outlook in November than has been seen in Raleigh in a long time.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- North Carolina State rushed for 189 yards against Florida State, marking a season high. However, through eight games, the Wolfpack still haven't had a running back with a 100-yard game. Mustafa Greene had a season-high 91 yards against Virginia Tech, and he led the Pack with 76 against the Seminoles.

-- The Wolfpack have scored 27 points or more in each of their first eight games. It's the first time a North Carolina State offense has ever been that prolific.

GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Russell Wilson -- Wilson has beaten most opponents with his arm this season, but he did most of his damage against Florida State with his legs. He scored the team's first three touchdowns on the ground before that game-winning flip to tight end George Bryan.

KEEP AN EYE ON: S Earl Wolff -- The sophomore had the best game of his Wolfpack career on national television, leading the team with nine tackles and breaking up a pass. The young secondary looks like it's gelling at the right time for North Carolina State, and it helped key the 28-24 victory.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He led us down the field, and he's just a great leader. I'd follow him anywhere and do anything for him." -- North Carolina State tight end George Bryan, on quarterback Russell Wilson.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD:
This was the best game of the season for the Wolfpack on the ground against a top opponent. Though no player gained 100 yards, the team finished with 189 net rushing yards and gained the tough yards that had eluded it in the previous game, a loss to East Carolina. The defense was tough when it counted, forcing two critical Christian Ponder fumbles. It held the Seminoles to three points in the second half, giving the offense the room it needed to come back.

STILL NEEDS WORK: Russell Wilson only threw one interception against Florida State, but it was a big one. His fourth-quarter pick at the Florida State 5-yard line likely cost the Wolfpack at least a field goal, and the Seminoles immediately drove down the field and kicked a field goal to take a 24-21 lead with less than 10 minutes to play. The other Wolfpack turnover, Dean Haynes' fumble, led to a Florida State touchdown. In all, the two N.C. State turnovers led directly to 10 of the 24 Seminole points. The Wolfpack defense had a hard time getting the Seminoles off the field, allowing them to convert on 8 of 14 third-down opportunities.

ROSTER REPORT:
-- RB Dean Haynes left the Florida Stage game with a concussion. He did not return.

-- LB Nate Irving injured his thumb against the Seminoles and looked to be in considerable pain. He stayed in the game, however, and recovered Christian Ponder's pivotal fourth-quarter fumble.

-- OL Jake Vermiglio left the Florida State game briefly with what looked to be cramps, but he returned to action.


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