After 1,093 offensive yards and 87 points, Florida State's game with the North Carolina State came down to a 50-yard heave by Wolfpack sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson. The good news for the Seminoles is that the pass was caught by one of their own, senior safety Jamie Robinson, allowing the Seminoles to squeak by with a 45-42 victory on Saturday afternoon.
"Week to week it comes down to that fourth quarter," quarterback Christian Ponder said after the game. "I'm proud of this team. We kept fighting and I have the best teammates in the world. They really carries me this game, I was struggling, hurting a little bit, and they did a good job of pulling us out."
In a game where Florida State (4-4, 2-3 ACC) only trailed once, their victory was largely due to a balanced offensive effort that saw the passing game accumulate 277 yards while the 'Noles pounded out 278 yards on the ground. The Seminoles 555 yards barely out-gained the 538 yards put up by the Wolfpack offense.
Ponder threw for 277 yards and a touchdown on 26-of-40 passing. However, his interception-less streak concluded in the first half at 254 pass attempts when N.C. State's Terrell Manning picked him off. Ponder was picked off once in the second half as well on a tipped pass.
Ponder played most of the game with a rib contusion but never missed a down in leading the Seminoles offense in the victory.
"I'm proud of ol' Ponder because he took a couple shots there early in the game that would have put a normal guy out, but he stayed in there with it," Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said. "He came back and played the second half. I'm sure he'll be sore tonight."
Ponder's favorite target in the passing game was senior wide receiver Rod Owens who had seven receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Bert Reed, six receptions for 66 yards, and Taiwan Easterling, four receptions for 43 yards, also provided major contributions to the passing game.
The running game was carried by sophomore Jermaine Thomas who had 186 yards on 20 attempts and two scores. Freshman back Chris Thompson had 19 yards on five carries but found the end zone twice. Also, Reed had 44 rushing yards on four carries, including the go-ahead touchdown with 1:36 remaining. That score proved to be the difference.
"If you block, everything goes," Bowden said of the running game. "And so our blocking must have been better, and our kids ran a little bit better maybe, but I thought the big thing was our blocking was better. I didn't see any great running out there. A couple of runs were, I thought were pretty good effort."
For the Wolfpack (3-5, 0-4 ACC), Wilson completed 20-for-30 for a career-high 349 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. He was contained on the ground as he scampered for only 34 yards on eight carries. His favorite target on the day was Owen Spencer who had five receptions for 165 yards, including a career-long 80-yard touchdown reception.
The Wolfpack also put together a solid ground effort racking up 189 rushing yards. Senior running back Toney Baker had 19 rushes for 112 yards.
The victory was witnessed by the smallest home crowd at Florida State since 1993 - 67,712.
Florida State will next travel to Clemson to face the Tigers next Saturday. Kickoff time and television will be announced on Sunday.