It might not have been a Thursday night in Carter-Finley Stadium, but it sure felt like it for the third-ranked Florida State Seminoles.
Despite a 16-point lead at the half, FSU fell to North Carolina State 17-16 as the Wolfpack dominated the second half. Set up by a blocked punt, Mike Glennon connected with Bryan Underwood for a fourth-down, two-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left, the Wolpack's only lead of the game.
A FSU Hail Mary attempt from its own 46 fell short as time expired. The Seminoles fell to 5-1 on the season, saw its national championship chase come to an end and dropped to 2-1 in the ACC with the loss.
"Well, we let one slip away from us," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Give N.C. State a lot of credit, they battled and competed hard in the game. We made enough mistakes in that ball game as far as execution things. So many places to make plays, missed plays, calls from different things."
After stopping N.C. State with 2:47 left on its own 32, FSU looked to be in good position to escape with a 16-10 win. But the Wolfpack had all three timeouts remaining and FSU failed to gain any yards on three straight run plays. FSU's ensuing punt was blocked by Mike Rose, and the ball rolled out to the FSU 43.
Glennon continued his red-hot second half as he picked up conversions on 4th and 2, and 4th and 10 to keep the game-winning drive alive. After connecting with Quintin Payton for a gain of 12-yards on 4th down, Glennon and the Wolfpack had 1st and goal at the 2.
On first down Glennon's pass to Underwood was incomplete. On second down N.C. State rushed for no gain, and on third down Glennon again was incomplete as he looked towards Payton. But on 4th down he connected with Underwood in the middle of the endzone for the game-winning score.
"They picked up three fourth down conversions in the last drive," Fisher said. "We get a blocked punt, (have to) step down, squeeze it off. It's the opposite guy that got it blocked last week, got to get that fixed."
In the first half it was all FSU as the Wolfpack managed just 68 yards of total offense on 29 plays and had just four first downs.
Glennon was just 6 of 13 passing in the first half for 41 yards with an interception. In the second half the redshirt senior was 24 of 42 for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
"He played very well in the second half," N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien said of Glennon. "I'm ecstatic for him. Our goal is to always win the third quarter and we did."
FSU got on the board first with a 49-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal with 6:34 left in the first quarter. The Seminoles took a 10-0 lead on a 4-yard pass from EJ Manuel to Nick O'Leary. The touchdown pass capped off an an 11-play, 80-yard drive.
FSU added a pair of Hopkins field goals from 20 and 36 yards for a 16-0 lead at the half and looked as if it would cruise to it's first 6-0 start since 1999.
As Glennon began to string together second-half completions, the Wolfpack defense also looked worlds better.
In the first half Chris Thompson rushed for over 100 yards in the first half of a game for the second time this season, as he churned out 115 yards on 14 carries despite a banged up elbow that sent him to the locker room for several minutes. Thompson finished the game with 141 yards, as he never got going in the second half
Like Thompson, Manuel never got going in the second half. He finished the game 17 of 29 for 218 yards with a touchdown, and an interception. In the second half Manuel was just 4 of 14 for 101 yards.
"Should have been aggressive in throwing the ball more," Fisher said. "Could have got into it that way, but they did a good job of…protecting their passer and getting the ball out late and getting the ball to backs and got some momentum going and kept (themselves) in the game."
With 20 seconds left in the third quarter Manuel was intercepted by Juston Burris at the Wolfpack 30-yard line on a busted wide receiver screen. N.C. State took advantage as they marched won the field and scored on a 24 yard pass from Glennon to Shadrach Thornton to cap of a seven-play, 59-yard drive.
On the ensuing drive Manuel put together FSU's only sustained drive of the second half as the Seminoles drove from their own 25 down to the NCSU 19. Facing a third-and-2 FSU elected to run Manuel on a bootleg to the right side, but as he took off on the QB sweep after faking a handoff up the middle Manuel was met by a wall of defenders and spun back to his left where he was sacked by Dontae Johnson for a loss of 15 yards.
The loss not only took FSU out of the redzone, but also pushed the ball all the way back to the 34-yard line, forcing Fisher to elect to punt rather than try a long field goal.
"What we usually do is get a guy to seal that end for me to get around, the guy just made a good play," Manuel said. "He got through and that's what obviously stopped me from being able to continue on my run around the side and then I turned around and somebody else was there."
After the punt, FSU went three-and-out on its final three possessions of the game as the Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1 ACC) came away with the one-point upset.
FSU said their focus now must now be to not let one loss turn into multiple losses like last season when the Seminoles lost its next two games after its first loss to Oklahoma.
"It's not over for us," said senior defensive tackle Everett Dawkins. "A lot of people are probably going to throw in the towel on us, but it's not over. We're going to fix our problems-that's a promise-everybody is going to go back in this week and refocus and figure out what's the problem and fix it."