CARTER-FINLEY STADIUM/RALEIGH N.C. State isn’t undefeated any more and isn’t going to vault into the Top 20, but the Wolfpack – and especially quarterback Jacoby Brissett – proved it was ready for prime time on Saturday.
Brissett completed 32 of 48 passes for 359 yards and three TDs and rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries, leading a gallant effort as the Wolfpack fell 56-41 to top-ranked Florida State.
It was the first time a No. 1 team in the nation had ever visited the Wolfpack’s home stadium. NCSU came in with victories over the Seminoles in five of their last seven trips to Raleigh, including 17-16 two seasons ago with Mike Glennon under center and 28-24 in 2010 with Russell Wilson calling signals.
Shadrach Thornton added 85 yards and a pair of TDs for the Wolfpack, while Bo Hines caught eight passes for 103 yards and a TD.
The Seminoles’ Jameis Winston, the oft-troubled Heisman Trophy winner who was suspended for last week’s Clemson game for an obscene outburst in the FSU student center, was back at quarterback and completed 26 of 38 passed for 365 yards and four TDs, but was intercepted twice.
Karlos Williams rushed for 126 yards and three TDs for FSU.
The Wolfpack finished with 520 yards total offense to FSU’s 531, and had a chance to win until Williams’ final TD with 2:07 to go.
NCSU set the tone with an electric first quarter, leading 24-7 after a period in which the visitors produced only four yards rushing. Nobody had ever scored 24 first-quarter points against the Seminoles.
NCSU scored its first touchdown on Brissett’s 54-yard pass to Hines behind the defense on just the game’s second play. That was the first passing touchdown by an ACC team against the Seminoles in four games, and marked the Wolfpack’s first first-half points against FSU in four years.
The Wolfpack made it 14-7 following a methodical 75-yard drive in which Thornton scored from three yards out on a direct snap.
It went to 17-7 on Niklas Sade’s 37-yard field goal set up by a Winston fumble. And to 24-7 when Brissett broke two sack tackles before an eight-yard scoring pass to David Grinnage, with Brissett’s 45-yard pass to Grinnage the key play of the drive.
NCSU didn’t have to punt until 12:16 remained in the half, and led 24-21 at the break.
But Brissett wasn’t done. He helped put the Wolfpack up 31-21 on a 10-yard pass to Matt Dayes at 12:40 of the third after making several spectacular escapes on the six-play, 59-yard drive.
After the Seminoles cut the lead to three, the Wolfpack created its third turnover of the game when FSU return man Rashad Greene lost a fumble at his own 27 . Three plays later Thornton scored on a tough 10-yard run to help it to 38-28 at 6:37 of the third.
Brissett’s first big mistake came with the Wolfpack up 38-35, when he was sacked and fumbled to set up the Seminoles at the NCSU 6. FSU capitalized on a Winston-to-Greene TD pass three plays later.
FSU stretched the lead to 49-38, and with the Wolfpack at the Seminoles’ 13 Brissett lost another fumble on a sack. But Jerod Fernandez picked off a Winston pass and returned it to the Seminole 12, and one play after Brissett suffered cramps and left the game for one play Sade’s 25-yard field goal cut it to 49-41 at 6:08.
They said it …
NCSU coach Dave Doeren: “There is a bunch of guys (in the locker room) who are spent. We played our hearts out. I’m thankful to our students and fans – they created an unbelievable environment. … I’m proud of Jacoby Brissett. He played his heart out and gave a great effort.”
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher: “We have an extremely resilient set of guys. They stay in the game. We made enough mistakes in all three phases of the game tonight (but) we’re finding ways to win games. … (NCSU) played a heck of a football game. They’ve done a great job of coaching those guys. They have a very good football team, very explosive.”
Brissett: “We were just executing our plan to the fullest, going out there making plays and keeping them off-balance. They’re very good, but there were good teams going back-and-forth. Right now we don’t feel so great, but we’ve just got to come after the next one.”
Thornton: “I’m a better running back because of my teammates – my O-line is gelling better. They let me be who I was today, and when you’ve got people believing in you you’ve got to do your assignment. Things like this can make you great. Losing is devastating, but we’re going to wake up tomorrow and get ready for Clemson.”
What does it all mean?
That FSU will probably stay No. 1, but that the Wolfpack may be better than anticipated when the season started.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Brissett’s first TD pass.
NCSU: Lost 1.
FSU: Won 20.
FSU leads 24-11.
N.C. State at Clemson, Oct. 4, 3:30 p.m.
Florida State vs. Wake Forest, Oct. 4, 3:30 p.m.