RALEIGH, N.C. - Florida State, of course, spent plenty of time studying and preparing for Russell Wilson. But the Seminoles learned rather harshly Thursday night that seeing Wilson, N.C. State's dual-threat quarterback, on film is one thing. Having to deal with him live, in person, and in front of 56,807 screaming fans is something entirely different.
Wilson, the Wolfpack's offensive catalyst, tortured the FSU defense in N.C. State's 28-24 victory, accounting for 268 yards of offense (178 passing, 90 rushing) and all four Wolfpack touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 passing).
But it was it was how, and when Wilson accumulated those numbers that proved to be the difference. Every time the Seminoles seemed to have Wilson bottled up, the junior found a way to escape and, more often than not, deliver a devastating third or fourth down conversion that kept that tired FSU defense on the field.
All told, the Wolfpack converted 12 of 18 (67 percent) of its third down attempts and, more important, both fourth down tries.
"I think he showed his leadership skills tonight," said Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien, who notched his first win over FSU with N.C. State. "He had some great runs and made plenty of plays tonight."
Sometimes, Florida State survived those plays, like when Wilson converted a third-and-22 with a 29-yard completion, only to throw an interception two plays later. But during what proved to be the game's critical drive, Wilson made the plays that sent the Seminoles to what could prove to be a season-changing loss.
Following Dustin Hopkins' 31-yard field goal that put FSU on top, 24-21, Wilson took the field at his own 30-yard line. He completed his first third down attempt with ease, picking up a third-and-four with a six-yard completion. Three plays later, it was fourth-and-four on FSU's 36, and had they made a stop, the Seminoles would've taken a huge step toward closing the door on the game. Instead, Wilson dropped back and found Darrell Davis for a completion that went down to the FSU 1-yard line.
With their backs against the wall, the Seminoles dug in and stuffed Wilson on first and second down, and then running back James Washington on third. O'Brien initially sent his field goal unit out, but had a change of heart and opted to go for the touchdown. And with nearly everyone in the stadium assuming the Wilson would attempt to sneak into the end zone - as he had successfully done once already - he instead faked a handoff and found tight end George Bryan open in the back of the end zone.
"We definitely wanted to go for it as a team but it was the coaches' decision and I feel they made the right decision," Wilson said. "We are at home, on the 1-inch line, and we had to get it in."
The pass provided the winning margin, but FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said that Wilson's running ability made it all possible.
"He beat us with his legs tonight," Fisher said. "He and [FSU QB Christian Ponder] were running left and right all across the field and we couldn't stop them. [N.C. State's] running game made it possible for them to win tonight."