Florida State Seminoles: Mike Glennon

ACC's best moments of 2012

January, 14, 2013
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It was a rough year for the ACC, but in retrospect, there were too many highlights to narrow it down to 10. From Blair Holliday’s return, to the ACC’s impressive performances during bowl season, to individual performances and games, the conference had plenty of memorable moments in 2012.

The following is a list of 10 moments and memories that best captured the 2012 ACC season, according to ESPN.com. ACC fans are bound to have more, and we’d love to hear them. What did we miss? Feel free to drop us a note in the mailbag, and we’ll highlight the best nominations in a separate mailblog. Until then, here are your top 10 moments from 2012, starting with the best:

1. Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning field goal versus LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: It was the ACC’s biggest win of the season, and the highest-ranked team Clemson has beaten in a bowl game since the 2004 (2003 season) Chick-fil-A Bowl, when the Tigers defeated sixth-ranked Tennessee 27-14. Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal as time expired gave No. 14 Clemson a wild 25-24 win against No. 8 LSU, and it was the highest-ranked SEC team an ACC team has beaten in the past nine years.

2. Duke becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 1994: Sean Renfree's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds left lifted Duke past North Carolina 33-30 and made the Blue Devils bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Renfree converted three third-and-longs during the game-winning, 87-yard drive.

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGiovani Bernard's 74-yard game-winning punt return to lift UNC past rival NCSU was a play to remember.
3. Giovani Bernard versus NC State: Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left, helping North Carolina stun rival NC State 43-35 to end a five-year losing streak in the series. That day, Bernard also ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and had eight catches for 95 yards.

4. Karlos Williams' tip and interception in the ACC title game: In what turned out to be the final game for FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, FSU's D came up big against Georgia Tech, and no play was bigger than Williams'. The game wasn't decided until Williams intercepted Tevin Washington with less than a minute remaining. It was FSU's first ACC title since 2005.

5. The ACC posting its first winning bowl record since 2005: With marquee wins over LSU and USC and a victory in the Discover Orange Bowl, the ACC finally came out on the right end of bowl season, and will enter 2013 will some much-needed positive momentum. The Noles took another step toward national relevance with a 31-10 win against No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl -- their first BCS bowl win since they beat Virginia Tech in 2000.

6. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel’s performance versus Clemson: It was Manuel’s one true Heisman moment of the season, as he completed 27 of 35 passes for a career-high 380 yards while rushing for another 102 to become the first Seminoles quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1992 to pass for more than 300 yards and run for more than 100 in a game.

7. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd accounts for eight touchdowns: The ACC Player of the Year set school and ACC records when he scored five passing and three rushing touchdowns in a 62-48 win over NC State. The Tigers gained 754 yards and ran 102 plays, the most in school history. Boyd was responsible for every Clemson touchdown. Boyd was 30-for-44 for 426 yards and ran for 105 yards -- the combined 531 yards set another school record.

8. Johnson leads Canes to Coastal title: In the regular-season finale against Duke, Miami freshman Duke Johnson rushed for season highs of 176 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 18, 6 and 65 yards. He finished his freshman year with 947 yards rushing, easily surpassing Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record of 838 yards.

9. NC State’s game-winning TD in its upset of No. 3-ranked FSU. This isn’t a “best moment” for FSU fans, but it was by far one of the most memorable plays in the ACC and a highlight for the Wolfpack. Quarterback Mike Glennon found Bryan Underwood for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds left, helping the Wolfpack beat the Seminoles 17-16 on Oct. 6.

10. Duke receiver Conner Vernon rewrites the record books: In a 42-17 win against Virginia, Vernon surpassed Clemson's Aaron Kelly as the ACC's all-time leader in career receptions when he made a catch for minus-2 yards in the first quarter. In the 42-24 loss to Georgia Tech, Vernon became the ACC's all-time leader in yards receiving, passing former Florida State star Peter Warrick's record of 3,517 yards.

TOP 3 OFF-FIELD MOMENTS

[+] EnlargeBlair Holliday
Courtesy of Duke Sports InformationBlair Holliday (No. 8) walks with his Duke teammates in his return to the field following a terrible jet ski accident that sidelined the wide receiver.
So as not to trivialize these moments by tossing them in with touchdowns, here are three more memories you won't want to forget:

1. Blair Holliday joins his Duke captains for the coin toss against NC Central: It was a miraculous recovery, and the most inspirational story in the conference. Holliday, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a jet ski accident on July 4 that left him in critical condition, led the team on the Devil Walk in what was an emotional comeback for the entire team.

2. Clemson receiver Daniel Rodriguez leads the Tigers on Military Appreciation Day: The Army veteran led the team down the hill carrying the American flag prior to the Virginia Tech game on Military Appreciation Day at Clemson on Oct. 20.

3. The ACC adds Louisville: The ACC's presidents and chancellors voted to add Louisville to replace Maryland, a move that looked better and better as the Cardinals' football season ended with a win against Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. ACC officials conceded the move was an athletics-first, academics-second decision, but it was one the conference should eventually benefit from.

Best case/worst case: ACC bowls

December, 13, 2012
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The ACC is looking for its first winning bowl record since 2005 and will have six opportunities this season to help its cause. ESPN.com is taking a look at the best- and worst-case scenario for each team going bowling. Here’s a look at what could happen in the ACC:

Duke

Best case: Duke wins. Look, getting to a bowl game for the first time since 1994 was huge, but it has been even longer since the program has actually won a bowl game. A win against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl would give Duke its first bowl win since 1961, when Duke beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: Duke’s defense allows its fifth straight opponent more than 40 points, and the ACC Coach of the Year goes 6-7.

Virginia Tech

Best case: Quarterback Logan Thomas plays an interception-free game, the Hokies get their running game going, Virginia Tech beats Rutgers for its first win of the season against a Big East team, and coach Frank Beamer announces he will hire a new offensive coordinator.

Worst case: The Hokies’ offense continues to look as anemic as it has all season, the program suffers its first losing season since 1992, and Beamer decides not to make any changes to his staff after an 0-3 finish against Big East teams.

NC State

Best case: Quarterback Mike Glennon plays four quarters like he did the final drive against Florida State, and the Pack has something positive to build on heading into the offseason with first-year coach Dave Doeren.

Worst case: The Pack’s mediocre rushing defense has no answer for All-SEC running back Zac Stacy, interim coach Dana Bible loses his first game as a head coach, and the ACC takes another punch in the gut from the SEC.

Georgia Tech

Best case: Paul Johnson has a reason to celebrate. The Jackets coach has lost all four bowls he has coached with the program. He could win his first if Georgia Tech’s defense looks like it had a month to prepare for Matt Barkley, the offense controls the clock with sustained drives, and the team wins the turnover battle.

Worst case: The Jackets secondary gets burned repeatedly by USC All-American receiver Marqise Lee, Johnson drops to 0-5 in bowl games, and Georgia Tech decides to follow Maryland to the Big Ten.

Clemson

Best case: ACC 1, SEC 0. Clemson beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl would do wonders for both the program and the ACC. The offensive line wins the battle up front and keeps LSU at bay in time for quarterback Tajh Boyd to work his magic.

Worst case: The Tigers lose the game and their offensive coordinator and their quarterback. Chad Morris goes to Texas Tech, Boyd leaves early for the NFL draft, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins follows.

Florida State

Best case: Florida State cruises, quarterback EJ Manuel looks like he did against Clemson -- not Florida -- and the defense stifles highly touted quarterback Jordan Lynch.

Worst case: The Noles lose to Northern Illinois. Nuff said. Well, that and Jimbo Fisher's entire staff leaves for the SEC.

Top 5 moments: Late collapse

December, 11, 2012
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With 2012 winding to a close, we're counting down the five biggest moments of the past season for Florida State -- those plays that defined 2012. Coming in at No. 4: Bryan Underwood's game-winning touchdown that ended FSU's hopes for a national title.

Perfection ended for Florida State in the most painful way possible.

In early October, the Seminoles left for Raleigh, N.C., with a sterling 5-0 record, but their only road test had been a short trip to USF, where nearly half the stadium was packed with FSU fans. The trip to NC State would be different -- far more hostile. But few players were concerned.

[+] EnlargeBryan Underwood
Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images Bryan Underwood's game-winning TD reception with 16 seconds left was the last of countless tiny cuts FSU suffered against the Wolfpack.
Just a year earlier, the Wolfpack were routed by Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium, and just a week earlier, NC State's secondary was torched by Miami to the tune of 566 passing yards. With EJ Manuel under center and the Seminoles' explosive offense ready for a road show, even a somewhat sluggish first half, which left FSU with a 16-0 lead, did little to dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

But if the first 22 quarters of football in 2012 had been an emphatic confirmation of all the preseason expectations, the next two would erode months of good will, reignite a decade's worth of frustrations and, most importantly, add nothing to that 16-point lead that slowly disappeared amid an endless array of dinks and dunks by the NC State offense that ultimately led to Bryan Underwood's 2-yard touchdown reception that sent the Seminoles to their first loss of the season.

(Read full post)

2012 ACC midseason report

October, 15, 2012
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The ACC has done it again.

From hope to heartache in a matter of weeks, ACC fans and their teams have run the gamut of emotions in the first half of the season.

The conference started out strong with a nationally televised showdown between top-10 teams Florida State and Clemson. It was prime-time entertainment with ESPN’s "College GameDay" crew in Tallahassee, Fla., and both teams lived up to the billing and looked worthy of their preseason hype and rankings. The conference puffed out its chest even more with the news that Notre Dame would commit to playing five games against the ACC annually, a solid steppingstone to the Irish possibly joining the conference full-time one day.

[+] EnlargeKelvin Benjamin
Rob Kinnan/US PresswireFlorida State's stunning loss at NC State not only hurt Seminoles receiver Kelvin Benjamin, it resonated throughout the ACC, depriving the league of its best hope for a national champion.
For six weeks, the ACC had its national title contender in unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Florida State. It had its Heisman hopeful in FSU quarterback EJ Manuel. And it had enhanced its stability and reputation for the future with its partnership with Notre Dame.

And then came the crash.

What was pure bliss for NC State in Week 6 was devastating to the ACC. In stunning, dramatic fashion, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon completed three fourth-down passes in the final drive of the fourth quarter, leading the Pack to a 17-16 upset of Florida State. Instantaneously, the league faded back into irrelevance in the national picture. No longer could the ACC mask an otherwise abysmal season with its top-five team.

Suddenly, the rest of the ACC’s warts seemed uglier.

Georgia Tech fired its defensive coordinator, Al Groh. After coming up short in losses to two Big East teams, Bud Foster’s Virginia Tech defense allowed North Carolina to score more points -- 48 -- than any other ACC team has ever scored against the Hokies. Boston College lost to a previously winless Army team, further indicating this could be Frank Spaziani’s last season as head coach. Wake Forest suspended six players for its game at Maryland and two more the following week. Two of the league’s brightest stars -- NC State cornerback David Amerson and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins -- have yet to shine like they did a year ago, but two rookies -- Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Miami’s Duke Johnson -- emerged as household names in ACC country.

With Duke and Miami briefly leading the Coastal Division standings, and Maryland atop the Atlantic Division standings, the ACC was officially turned upside down in the first half of the season. Preseason Coastal favorite Virginia Tech was out of the Top 25 by Week 3 and Georgia Tech sank into a four-loss crater, leaving the door wide open. The Blue Devils knocked it down with a 5-1 start, and the wildly unpredictable Cardiac Canes elbowed their way to the top of the division standings. Miami overcame its youth, and Duke found a way to overcome numerous injuries -- including ones to several key starters on defense and also to starting quarterback Sean Renfree -- for its best start since 1994. Duke entered Week 7 with the best record in the state of North Carolina, but couldn't hold onto the magic and was shut out for the final three quarters of a 41-20 loss at Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, the postseason-ineligible Tar Heels looked like the most complete team in the division.

Four teams in the Coastal Division have one league loss. Maryland is the only ACC team still undefeated in conference play. About the only predictable thing in this conference is its unpredictability -- and its failure to maintain a national title contender through November.

Offensive MVP: Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins needed only the season opener to set the Clemson single-game record for receptions with 13 against Auburn. Hopkins has been near the ACC lead in receiving yards per game all season, and has a 129.5 average entering the game with Virginia Tech. He has 370 receiving yards on 18 catches in the past two games and was leading the nation in total receiving yards entering games of Oct. 13.

Defensive MVP: FSU DE Bjoern Werner: Werner has looked like a pro this season. Nobody had more sacks in the opening weekend of FBS college football, and he has been relentless in pursuit of opposing quarterbacks. Of Werner’s 21 tackles on the season, 10 are tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks.

Biggest surprise: Duke. The Blue Devils’ 5-1 start was their best since 1994, also the last time the program went to a bowl game. Duke started out 2-0 in ACC play with wins against Wake Forest and Virginia. That the team was able to overcome so many injuries to key players and leap Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division standings was evidence the recruiting and depth have improved significantly.

Biggest disappointment: Virginia Tech. The Hokies were ranked No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll, but fell out entirely after an embarrassing road loss to Pitt in Week 3. Instead of that being an anomaly, Virginia Tech went 0-2 against the Big East and lost back-to-back games against Cincinnati and North Carolina. With eight starters having to be replaced on offense, struggles were expected, but the defense fell far below expectations.

Best game: Florida State at NC State. This one changed the entire season, and it couldn’t have come in more thrilling fashion. On fourth down with 16 seconds left, Mike Glennon threw what would be the game-winning 2-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood for the 17-16 win. It was the highest-ranked opponent NC State has defeated since beating No. 2 Florida State 24-7 in 1998, and it opened up the Atlantic Division race.

Newcomer of the year: Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs. He became the only Maryland freshman to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since at least 1985, and one of those performances came against West Virginia. Diggs is the only player in the ACC, and one of two nationally, with 350 receiving yards, 150 punt return yards and 150 kickoff return yards (joining Bernard Reedy of Toledo). Diggs leads the ACC and ranks third nationally with 21.5 yards per catch.

Best coach: David Cutcliffe, Duke: He kept his players believing, and the program turned the corner in his fifth season. It is only the third Duke start of 5-1 or better in the past 30 years (5-1 in 2012; 6-0 in 1994; 5-1 in 1988). With home wins against FIU, N.C. Central, Memphis and Virginia this season, the Blue Devils also have opened the year with four consecutive home wins for the first time since 1994.

ACC power rankings: Week 8

October, 15, 2012
10/15/12
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Last week was all out of whack. Virginia Tech restored some normalcy to the league with its win over Duke, and North Carolina did its part by humbling Miami in Sun Life Stadium. That’s not to say this pecking order isn’t still in flux. The Coastal Division race is wide open, and there are plenty of teams still jockeying for position in the division standings. Here’s a look at how the league shakes out at the midway point of the season:

1. Florida State (6-1, 3-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- The Seminoles bounced back from their deflating loss to NC State with a convincing 51-7 drubbing of Boston College. They’ll get more of a fight this week when they face rival Miami on the road, but on paper, this is another game the Noles should win.

2. Clemson (5-1, 2-1; LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers had a bye week, and they’re going to be catching Virginia Tech right when the Hokies might have turned the corner with an historic comeback win against Duke. Clemson owned the Hokies in two wins last year, including the ACC title game.

3. NC State (4-2, 1-1; LW: No. 5) -- The Wolfpack had a bye week to digest their upset of then-No. 3-ranked Florida State and turn their focus to Saturday’s trip to Maryland. Quarterback Mike Glennon made three fourth-down completions in the fourth quarter last week and will be looking for another important Atlantic Division win.

4. North Carolina (5-2, 2-1; LW: No. 6) -- The Tar Heels got their first road win of the season against Miami, but UNC committed 15 penalties for 140 yards in the 18-14 win over the Canes. It didn’t matter in the end because Miami had no answer for running back Giovani Bernard, who ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

5. Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1; LW: No. 8) -- The Hokies scored 41 unanswered points in the final three quarters to beat Duke 41-20 on Saturday in the biggest comeback the program has seen under coach Frank Beamer. Virginia Tech avoided a second Coastal Division loss and has some momentum heading into Death Valley.

6. Maryland (4-2, 2-0; LW: No. 7) -- The Terps are the only ACC team still undefeated in league play, and they are leading the Atlantic Division standings. They’ll face much stiffer competition when NC State visits on Saturday, but Maryland’s defense has kept it in every game this season and is one of the best in the ACC.

7. Miami (4-3, 3-1; LW: No. 4) -- The Hurricanes’ rushing defense has been one of its weakest links this season, as Miami is allowing 253.71 rushing yards per game. UNC ran for 272 yards against the Canes, and Florida State has the capability to do the same this weekend.

8. Duke (5-2, 2-1; LW: No. 3) -- The Blue Devils probably wouldn’t have dropped so far in the rankings so fast had they played a more respectable final three quarters, but squandering a 20-point lead brought Duke crashing back to reality. The team had a chance at a marquee win for the program, but four turnovers put the bowl bid on hold for now.

9. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-3; LW: No. 10) -- The Deacs had a bye week, and they needed it after losing back-to-back conference games and suspending eight players in the past two weeks. Wake Forest travels to UVa this weekend in a game that will be critical to the Deacs’ bowl hopes.

10. Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3; LW: No. 9) -- It’s been a tumultuous season for the Jackets, who fired former defensive coordinator Al Groh last week. Interim Charles Kelly at least had the bye week to make the transition in preparation of Saturday’s game against Boston College. The main game plan, coach Paul Johnson said last week, is to simplify things for the defense.

11. Virginia (2-5, 0-3; LW: No. 11) -- Not much has gone right for the Hoos, who have lost five straight games heading into Saturday’s matchup against Wake Forest. Virginia is No. 99 in the country in scoring defense, allowing 33 points per game, but has also struggled offensively with quarterbacks Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims.

12. Boston College (1-5, 0-3; LW: No. 12) -- The Eagles are still looking for their first conference win of the season, and have lost four straight as they head into their third straight road game. The Eagles haven’t been able to run the ball or stop the run this season, but the passing game has shown improvement under coordinator Doug Martin.
After two ugly games on the road, Florida State returns home with a much different mood surrounding the team than the euphoria that existed in Tallahassee after the Seminoles' big win over Clemson.

The dreams of a national championship are over, the flaws in FSU's hype machine were exposed. Now, it's Jimbo Fisher's job to pick up the pieces. Here are the five things we'll be looking for in Florida State's return to action against Boston College.

1. How will Florida State bounce back?

FSU linebackers looking for answers

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Their demise didn't come from the deep ball or a long run. Instead, the Seminoles were buried by a series of maddeningly short passes over the middle, small chunks of yardage that turned the game.

NC State ran crossing routes with its tight ends, running backs and slot receivers over and over again, and Florida State had no answer. In the second half, Mike Glennon completed 24 passes, but just one went for more than 15 yards. Add them all up though, and it was a recipe for beating the vaunted Florida State defense.

"Obviously we opened up a can of worms," Vince Williams said. "Now people think our linebackers can't cover."

Glennon threw for 218 yards in the second half, but rarely did he look downfield. He tested Florida State's linebacking corps, with 16 of his 30 completions going to running backs and tight ends.

The most effective play for the Wolfpack was the underneath crossing routes, which shifted linebackers out of position and left receivers open for short gains that, when combined with a missed tackle, turned into big problems for Florida State.

(Read full post)

FSU Awards Tracker: Week 6

October, 9, 2012
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There's little in the way of awards talk this week other than a few remaining rumblings about how far the Seminoles have fallen. It's all about dishing out blame right now, which means there are few players rising up the ranks in this week's awards watch.

[+] EnlargeChristian Jones
Kim Klement/US PresswireChristian Jones had 14 tackles to lead the Seminoles defense Saturday against NC State.
RISING
K Dustin Hopkins, Sr. (Groza)
Hopkins connected on three field goals for the second straight week, pushing him ever closer to the school and conference scoring titles. But what he'll remember about Saturday's game is the two field goals he never got a chance to try -- the 52-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter in which Jimbo Fisher decided to punt and a potential game winner as time expired that never came to fruition.

LB Christian Jones, Jr. (Butkus)
It wasn't a perfect game for Jones, and the linebackers share a significant chunk of the blame for allowing NC State to effectively use all those dink-and-dunk crossing patterns to great success in the second half. But Jones also defended those throws as well as anyone, breaking up two passes, and he finished with a game-high 14 tackles.

S Lamarcus Joyner, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
If Saturday's game had ended with a win, Joyner would be hailed as a hero. Because it ended with a loss, the best of his contributions will be forgotten. Joyner made a handful of huge plays in the second half, including stripping a catch near the goal line and making a game-saving open-field tackle to force an NC State punt in the fourth quarter -- but it was all for naught. He finished with seven tackles in the game.

HOLDING STEADY
DT Everett Dawkins, Sr. (Outland)
The goal entering Saturday's game was to get Mike Glennon out of the pocket. That never happened, and part of the reason was the lack of push by the big men up front. But Dawkins was stout in the running game once again -- NC State averaged just 2.4 yards per carry -- and he had three tackles. It wasn't his best game, but there was plenty of blame to go around.

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Putting together a list of Florida State's top 10 performers for the season seems a bit incongruous considering the somber mood among Seminoles fans and the lack of impact any of FSU's talented starters made down the stretch against NC State. But the season must go on, and so, too, the power rankings. Here's how things stack up after six weeks. (Previous rank in parentheses.)

1. Chris Thompson, RB (3)
Sure, Thompson wore down in the second half against NC State, but it's hard to find much fault in his performance. He matched a career high with 25 carries and he provided the bulk of the first-half offense, but Jimbo Fisher should have found a way to get the fresher, stronger James Wilder Jr. a few touches late in the game if he wanted to run the football with power.

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By the Numbers: NC State 17, FSU 16

October, 7, 2012
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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.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Christian Jones can hardly count all the times it was over, only to find out that NC State still had life.

[+] EnlargeBryan Underwood
Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images Bryan Underwood's game-winning TD reception with 16 seconds left was the last of countless tiny cuts FSU suffered against the Wolfpack.
It was over at the half, when Florida State's defense had dominated. It was over when Tyler Hunter thumped Shadrach Thornton short of the marker on a fourth-down play with just 2:47 remaining. It was over on any one of the three third-down stops on NC State's final drive that were followed each time by failure on fourth down.

That's what nagged at Jones after it really was over, after NC State pulled off the 17-16 upset of No. 3 Florida State, surely ending the Seminoles hopes for a national championship. There had been so many stops, so many big plays, so many moments when it might have turned out differently -- until it didn't.

"There wasn't much devastating, but those fourth downs, we had an opportunity to get off the field and we didn't," Jones said.

The vaunted Florida State defense never collapsed under the weight of mounting pressure and, defensive tackle Everett Dawkins insists, it never caved amid the furious pace of NC State's no-huddle offense in the waning minutes of the game.

This was death by a thousand pin pricks.

(Read full post)

Instant Analysis: NC State 17, FSU 16

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- After last Saturday's games, Mike Glennon sent a text message to his good friend EJ Manuel, predicting an upset.

It was a boastful claim considering NC State had just looked awful in a loss to Miami (Fla), and Florida State was flying high and ranked third in the nation. Manuel was so amused, he shared the message with his defense as a bit of bulletin-board material.

Turns out, Glennon was right.

NC State's senior quarterback led a furious assault on the vaunted Seminoles defense in the second half, rallying the Wolfpack from a 16-point deficit for a 17-16 win.

It was over when: Glennon hit Bryan Underwood for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 16 seconds remaining in the game. It was the third time NC State was faced with a fourth down on the drive, which began after the Wolfpack blocked a late FSU punt. The touchdown tied the game, and the ensuing extra point gave them the lead as NC State knocked off a top-five opponent at home for the first time since 1998, when NC State dumped No. 2-ranked FSU.

Game ball goes to: Glennon. After being demolished in the first half, completing just 6 of 13 passes for 41 yards with an interception, the senior quarterback was a calm, cool and collected in the second half, delivering one big throw after another. Glennon finished the game 30-of-55 passing for 259 yards and two second-half touchdowns, including the game winner on fourth down with 16 seconds left.

Turning point: Halftime. The first half was all Florida State, as the Seminoles dominated the line of scrimmage, Chris Thompson burned the NC State defense on the ground, and FSU went into the locker room leading 16-0. When the two teams emerged for the second half, it was a brand new ballgame. The NC State defense tormented Manuel, with FSU mustering just five first downs and 101 yards. NC State, meanwhile, sprung to life, quadrupling its first-half output with 257 yards of offense, most of it coming on short passes over the middle that FSU's linebacking corps had no answer for.

Stat of the game: Four. That's the number of times FSU has started a season 5-0 since its 1999 national championship season, and on all four occasions it lost its next game. The questions will be awfully tough for Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles to answer after this -- a game it dominated early. A week earlier, NC State allowed an ACC-record 566 yards passing, but Manuel couldn't solve the Wolfpack defense and another season of immense expectations fizzled with an unlikely loss.

Unsung hero: The NC State offensive line. Missing three starters, the Wolfpack's offensive line stepped up and shut down a rather passive Florida State pass rush. The Seminoles had just one sack, which came early and from a defensive tackle. Fill-in offensive tackles R.J. Mattes and Tyson Chandler managed to keep Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner off of Glennon long enough for the Wolfpack quarterback to engineer one strong drive after another in the second half, including three huge fourth-down conversions late.

Halftime Analysis: FSU 16, NCSU 0

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
9:44
PM ET
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The good news for NC State is that it could have been worse. The bad news is that there are no signs the Wolfpack will turn the tide in the second half.

Three Florida State drives stalled and ended with field goals, but the Seminoles' stout defensive front has dominated the line of scrimmage and Chris Thompson has already crossed the 100-yard mark on the ground as FSU has jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead.

Stat of the half: 115. That's the rushing yards for Thompson in the first half. Thompson needed just 11 carries to top the 100-yard mark for the third time this season, as he set the tone for the Florida State offense. The FSU O-line has had trouble protecting EJ Manuel, but the running game has had no trouble finding holes, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Thompson's 115 yards on the ground give him 546 for the year -- just 33 shy of Devonta Freeman's team-leading total from a year ago.

Player of the half: Thompson, but the FSU defensive line can also make a good argument for the honor. Thompson has been the game changer on offense, but FSU's defensive front has tormented Mike Glennon, who is averaging just 3.2 yards per attempt. The NC State running game hasn't fared any better, with starting tailback Tony Creecy tallying just 21 yards on 10 carries.

What's working for FSU: Aside from the run game and the defensive front, it's been all Dustin Hopkins, who has connected on three field goals for the second straight week. That's good news for Hopkins, who struggled three weeks ago against Clemson, but bad news for an FSU offense which has endured some notable red-zone struggles of late.

What's not working for FSU: The biggest problem for the Seminoles has been pass protection. Manuel was sacked three times in the first half, a season high. Even when he hasn't been brought down, he's been under pressure. Manuel has fared rather well -- 11-of-15 passing for 117 yards and a TD -- but he hasn't had the time to look downfield as Miami did in exploiting the NC State secondary a week earlier.

Worth noting: Right tackle Menelik Watson has an illness, according to FSU sports information, that sidelined him for the game. Daniel Glauser got the start. ...Thompson left the game for a series in the second quarter for treatment on his elbow. He returned to the field, but with the elbow heavily wrapped. ...Rashad Greene tied his season high with four catches in the first half. ...Anthony McCloud recorded his first sack of the season.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's something of a perfect storm for NC State coach Tom O'Brien.

Looming on the horizon is Florida State's vaunted defensive line, which through five games has a conference-best 15 sacks, led by Bjoern Werner and the reigning ACC defensive lineman of the week, Cornellius Carradine.

O'Brien's offensive line, meanwhile, is in turmoil. The unit has allowed 16 sacks this season, the most in the ACC, and will line up Saturday without three of its starters.

Add a traditional pocket passer like Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon, with the lingering memories of last year's 34-0 shutout at the hands of FSU, and it's a scenario that should give any coach nightmares.

"The problem we have right now is that we're starting our fifth offensive line in six games," O'Brien said. "We only have one guy that we came into the season with [as a starter]. That's definitely going to be a concern against this great front of Florida State."

Of course, Florida State has some concerns of its own.

(Read full post)

Five Storylines: FSU vs. NC State 

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
9:00
AM ET
Florida State heads to Raleigh, N.C., this week to what has been a house of horrors in years past. Not only does the N.C. State crowd ensure an unpleasant trip for the Seminoles, but the end result in four of their last seven games has been a loss.

This year's trip certainly figures to be different, with a Florida State team looking much improved over the unit that lost 28-24 at N.C. State in 2010. Here are a few key storylines that could determine the game.

1. How will Florida State respond to a hostile environment?

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