- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's become a football cliche, but Jimbo Fisher repeated it often after Saturday's 17-16 loss to NC State. It's a game of inches, he said, and NC State fought harder for them.
What Fisher misses is that this one was never supposed to come down to inches. Florida State was supposed to win easily, and by halftime the Seminoles were well on their way.
In the end, those inches mattered. Here are five reasons why.
21. That's Florida State's rushing yards in the second half, on 18 carries. That comes on the heels of a strong first half in which the Seminoles managed 104 yards on the ground behind a huge half from Chris Thompson. The running lanes quickly evaporated in the second half, however, but Fisher's desire to run the ball didn't. Before surrendering the lead with 16 seconds left, eight of FSU's final 11 plays were rushes, and they tallied a grand total of eight yards -- not including a sack of EJ Manuel that lost 15 yards.
32. That's the number of tackles for Christian Jones, Telvin Smith and Cornellius Carradine combined. On one hand, it was a solid night for the trio in racking up the tackle numbers. On the other hand, the high totals are a perfect indication of NC State's game plan. Mike Glennon dinked and dunked his way down the field again and again, torturing the FSU defense by taking the easy yards and never making a mistake.
19. That's the number of tackles for a loss Florida State has allowed in the past two games -- five more than the Seminoles had given up in their first four games combined. NC State entered Saturday's game with all the questions on its offensive line, but the Wolfpack -- down three starters on the line -- allowed just one sack. Meanwhile, Manuel was under pressure all night, and the line missed assignments on a handful of crucial plays, including the sack that knocked FSU out of field-goal range in the fourth quarter.
8-of-30. That's Florida State's conversion rate on third downs in the last two games, including a woeful 3 of 15 against NC State. The 26.7 percent success rate is a steep departure from FSU's performance in its first four games when the Seminoles converted 23 of 41 third-down tries (56.1 percent). It helped that FSU's defense managed to hold NC State to just 5 of 18 on third down, but the Wolfpack converted three straight fourth-down tries on the final drive that proved the difference in the game.
2. That's the number of punts Florida State has had blocked in the past two games. Jimbo Fisher said freshman punter Cason Beatty isn't to blame, but the results have been damning. USF scored after blocking a punt last week, and NC State's block with 2:27 remaining set up the Wolfpack with a short field for the game-winning drive.
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