'Pack Bowl Hopes Dashed in 17-10 Loss to FSU

<B>RALEIGH, NC --</b> Both defenses battled in a great game at Carter-Finley Stadium, but the Seminoles came out on top 17-10 over the NC State Wolfpack.

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    For the first time in NC State head coach Chuck Amato's tenure, the Wolfpack won't be going to a bowl game. Florida State snuffed the Pack's postseason hopes as it earned a 17-10 victory at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. It was a closely fought game, but an ugly one, one in which the defenses dominated on a wet and misty night.

    If there was one thing NC State needed to do to have a chance at upsetting Florida State, it was minimize turnovers. Wolfpack QB's Jay Davis and Marcus Stone met their end of the bargain by not throwing any interceptions, but a slippery ball and Florida State's defense proved too much to overcome in the end.

    Stone played more snaps than he has since the Pack's win over Virginia Tech, but he was no more successful than Davis. Davis and Stone combined to complete nine of 25 passes for only 100 yards, and both faced intense pressure from the Seminole defensive line throughout the game, getting sacked a combined five times. Stone was three of six for 28 yards, and Davis was six of 19 for 72 yards.

    Neither NC State quarterback threw an interception, but critical fumbles by T.A. McLendon and T.J. Williams took the breath out of the offense in the decisive third quarter, when the Seminoles managed to break through an otherwise airtight NC State defense for all 17 of their points.

    As well as NC State's defensive unit performed, it couldn't bottle up the potent Florida State attack for four quarters. Florida State, on the other hand, had little difficulty smothering an inept Wolfpack attack. After obtaining six first downs in the first half, NC State only managed one first down in the entire second half, on a pass interference penalty.

    Like last week against Georgia Tech, NC State's rushing game found little room for operation behind an injury-depleted line, netting only 23 yards. Tailback T.A. McLendon again made it through the entire game for NC State, but managed just 23 yards on 14 attempts, and gave up another momentum- stealing fumble.

    With the Wolfpack down 14-10 in the third quarter and riding high from a big Troy Graham interception, McLendon had the ball stripped on the very next play on the Wolfpack 16-yard line. The Wolfpack would hold Florida State to a field goal, but NC State's offense would remain dormant the rest of the game.

    The game was largely a tale of two halves - NC State outgained the Seminoles 97 to 38 yards in the first half, and had all the momentum going into halftime with a 10-0 lead. Freshman Darrell Blackman scored the Pack's only touchdown in the second quarter, an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown off of a booming 61-yard punt by Chris Hall.

    Throughout the game NC State's defensive line dominated from the edges, with Mario Williams totaling three sacks and Manny Lawson adding another sack and three tackles for loss. The unit totaled an astounding 23 tackles for a total loss on the night. Seminoles quarterback Wyatt Sexton was hounded into an off night passing, completing only five of eightteen passes for 73 yards and one interception. However, Sexton made the big plays when he needed to, notably a 25-yard floating bomb to tailback Lorenzo Booker on 3rd and six than gave the 'Noles the ball at the Wolfpack six yard line. It was only one of three third-down conversions in 19 attempts, and led to a four-yard rushing touchdown by Booker. The Seminoles were aided on the drive by a 40-yard punt return by Willie Reid, which gave them the ball at the NC State 35-yard line.

    If any single player made a difference for the Seminoles, it was Reid, who returned seven punts for 107 yards and helped Florida State win the field position battle in the second half. The Seminoles' first touchdown came on a drive starting at the NC State 45-yard line, thanks to a 16-yard Reid punt return.

    For NC State, it was more of the same. Ranked fourth in the NCAA in penalties per game, NC State was penalized seven times for 43 yards. Most notable was a false start on third and goal at the five yard line. The Pack couldn't score on third and 10, and had to settle for a 28-yard John Deraney field goal, his first made kick in his last four attempts. The Pack's two fumbles and poor punt coverage gave Florida State the breathing room it needed to get on the scoreboard, and the Seminole defense did the rest from there. After moving the ball somewhat in the first half, NC State never even entered Seminole territory in the second half.

    Next up for the Wolfpack is a November 27th game against the East Carolina Pirates in Charlotte, but with this loss NC State will be unable to avoid finishing with Amato's first losing season of his NC State coaching career, as they are now 4-6 on the season.

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