RALEIGH, North Carolina -- Florida State found another way to lose and the program hit a new rock bottom on Thursday night.
Despite being a 10-point favorite and facing an opponent that has already suffered embarrassing losses to Akron and Southern Miss, Bobby Bowden's Seminoles went down in flames, fell to 3-2 on the season and pretty much lost all hopes of returning to the ACC Championship game. With seven regular season games left to go and all their major goals lost, the Seminole coaches and players will have to regroup.
"It's going to be tough," linebacker Buster Davis said. "We have to find some way to come together on Monday. We have to find something because we are in a tough predicament right now."
Though the first four games the offense was FSU's Achilles' heel but on Thursday it was the defense that couldn't hold up. With the 'Noles holding a 20-10 lead after an impressive 99-yard scoring drive, and only a little over one quarter to play, Mickey Andrews' squad couldn't stop NC State's run or the pass.
Led by junior tailback Andre Brown, who eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the second straight year against FSU, and sophomore quarterback Daniel Evans, the Wolfpack sliced and diced the Seminole defense putting together two straight touchdown drives to take a 24-20 lead midway into the fourth quarter.
Florida State had one last chance to mount a come-from-behind victory but came up short. After driving to NC State's 39-yard line with a little over two minutes left, quarterback Drew Weatherford's pass to tight end Brandon Warren was deflected into the hands of safety DaJuan Morgan. With FSU out of timeouts, NC State ran the clock out much to the delight of the 57,437 in attendance.
"It doesn't seem like the defense and the offense are together much," Weatherford said. "When the offense plays well the defense doesn't play very well and when the defense plays well we don't capitalize. That's been the story of our season and somehow we are going to have to figure it out."
Brown, who grew up a Seminole fan but was never offered a scholarship, finished the night rushing for 113 yards on 18 carries, 99 of which came in the second half. When Brown wasn't busting off big runs, Evans, who was making only his second career start, was completing touchdown passes against an inexperienced secondary. Freshman wide receiver Geron James, who was listed as third string on the pre-game depth chart, led the Pack in receiving with four catches for 91 yards. His biggest grab was a 10-yard touchdown catch late in the third to cut FSU's lead to 20-17.
"They made some hellified catches tonight," Davis said. "They must have prayed very hard for this game because they made more difficult catches than I've ever been a part of in a football game. I've never seen it."
On NC State's next drive, Evans put together an eight-play, 58-yard touchdown drive that was capped off by 12-yard throw to a leaping John Dunlap in the endzone. From there Chuck Amato's defense did it's part and kept FSU off the scoreboard in the final quarter.
Making matters worse, it looks like the Seminole defense may have lost another defender for the season. Late in the first quarter sophomore linebacker Derek Nicholson went down with a knee injury and had to be helped from the field. After the game head coach Bobby Bowden said the injury "didn't look good".
Nicholson, who was in a soft cast and using crutches after the game, could become the eighth key defender that suffered a significant injury this season joining Paul Griffin (knee), Emmanuel Dunbar (back), Marcus Ball (knee), Jae Thaxton (concussions), Anthony Houllis (knee), Tony Carter (knee) and D.J. Norris (shoulder).
"You are like darn, who's going to go next," Davis said. "It hurts us in different packages. We've lost two middle linebackers already. We've got myself and a true freshman."
One of the few positives for FSU was senior Lorenzo Booker posting 163 all-purpose yards. Also, freshman tight end Brandon Warren had the best game of his young career with five catches for 47 yards and his first ever touchdown grab, a 12-yarder in the third quarter.
Next up for FSU is a 1:00 p.m. road tilt at Duke on Saturday, October 14th.