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October 6, 2012

Wolfpack shocker



NC State's upset against No. 3-ranked Florida State was the perfect way to continue the celebration of Wolfpack athletics this weekend.

NC State inducted its first class of hall of fame athletes Friday night — which included past football greats Roman Gabriel, Ted Brown and Jim Richter — and then punctuated the good will with a sterling second half performance Saturday.

NC State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) came alive in the second half to score 17 unanswered points to shock No. 3-ranked Florida State (5-1, 2-1) 17-16 in front of 54,692 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack have a bye week and then play at Maryland on Oct. 20.

NC State needed to convert on three different fourth down plays, and came through on the last one when fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon found an open redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryan Underwood in the middle of the Florida State defense for a two-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the game.

"When we were on first down at the three, there was no doubt in my mind, and then we were on fourth down," Glennon said. "It was just a great way to end the game against the No. 3 team in the country. It doesn't get any better than this, to beat a team that good of that caliber, on our home turf, and our fans were unreal today."

NC State's special teams rose up when redshirt freshman defensive Mike Rose blocked the punt of Charlotte native Cason Beatty, a freshman for FSU. NC State took over at the FSU 43-yard line.

Glennon scrambled for eight yards to set up a fourth down and two. The Wolfpack converted the crucial play call with a seven-yard grab to redshirt junior tight end Asa Watson to the FSU 29-yard line.

The momentum continued with FSU star redshirt junior cornerback Xavier Rhodes getting called for a pass interference penalty against fifth-year senior wide receiver Tobais Palmer to set up first down at the 14.

FSU's defense tightened up again forcing fourth down and 10 at the 14. Glennon stood tall in the pocket and found Payton over the middle for a tough grab and first down at the two-yard line with 1:07 remaining.

The Wolfpack had four cracks at pulling off an epic comeback in the history of the program. The first play ended in Glennon throwing the ball away, while the second had redshirt sophomore Tony Creecy rushing for no gain. Redshirt junior wide receiver Quintin Payton almost came down with a deflected pass in the end zone, but the ball fell to the ground. Everything came down to the last play of the game.

Mr. Touchdown, Underwood, extended his streak to six-straight games with a score. He ran a shallow crossing route and read the defense.

"The block punt was really clutch," Underwood said. "We just used that for energy. Six straight, it is what it is. I wasn't really thinking about it, but I was just focused to get the team win and showing the world what we can do today."

NCSU sophomore kicker Niklas Sade had the game on his shoulders, and he drilled the extra point to give NC State a 17-16 lead with 16 seconds left in the game.

Glennon finished going 30-of-55 for 259 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

"We just needed to throw the ball in the second half and get a rhythm going," Glennon said. "It didn't feel like we were on the field much in the first half. The [line] did a great job. With three starters down, they gave up one sack to that defense. That's unheard of. I couldn't be more proud of those guys."

Rose said he was simply filling in for injured redshirt sophomore fullback Logan Winkles when he blocked the punt.

"I went in and did what I have to do," Rose said. "They run a shield punt, which is the same thing that what we do. We go over it and over and over in practice."

The raucous home crowd also played a key role for the Wolfpack.

"I have to give our fans a lot of credit," O'Brien said. "We needed them, they showed up and were loud. They can take part in this too.

"We got rid of the Miami thing and focused on Florida State. This is a great win. This puts us right back in the thick of things in the ACC."

The first half wasn't pretty for NC State, but it did set the tone for what they hoped to accomplish. NC State returned to basic football, and overcame a slow offensive start where crossing midfield proved to be a tussle for the Wolfpack offense.

NC State aimed to slow the game by controlling the football and put its no-huddle offense on ice. The game plan of muddying up the game worked to a certain point, but the Wolfpack needed some breaks to keep up with the more explosive Seminoles.

NC State wasn't flawless in its execution, but the version of the Wolfpack that committed 14 penalties and six turnovers in last weeks' 44-37 loss to Miami, disappeared after a good week of practice.

"We were more solid in every facet of the game on defense," O'Brien said. "There wasn't one ball that went over our head today. We played much better in the secondary, and the kids up front got after them. You have to give the coaches a lot of credit, and the team a lot of credit."

Florida State surprisingly seemed content to match NC State's methodical approach. FSU featured senior running back Chris Thompson extensively and didn't take too many chances downfield with senior quarterback EJ Manuel. Thompson rushed for 115 yards on 14 carries in the first half, plus added another 29 yards on two receptions. He finished with 141 yards on 25 carries and the two catches.

The game plan worked to the tune of three Dustin Hopkins field goals, plus Manuel tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight Nick O'Leary to build a 16-0 halftime lead.

NC State had just four first downs in the first half, and was outgained 221-to-68 by Florida State. The Wolfpack's defense ensured that the game didn't get too far away by halftime.

NC State found its offensive rhythm to start the third quarter. NC State mixed a nice dose of running and passing plays for a 15-play, 78-yard drive, which resulted in Sade making a 27-yard field goal to get the Wolfpack on the board, 16-3, with 6:50 left in the game.

Florida State's offense biggest achievement might have been to make sure its defense wasn't put into any bad situations. Manuel finally slipped up when his third down slant pass went right to NC State redshirt freshman cornerback Juston Burris, who returned it 11 yards to the Wolfpack 41-yard line.

Glennon and the offense made the turnover count. Glennon found some weak spots in the Seminoles defense with running backs in patterns over the middle. Glennon capped the drive with a 24-yard pass to freshman tailback Shadrach Thornton to cut the Seminoles' lead to 16-10 with 13:47 left in the game.

The touchdown put NC State right where they wanted to be against the vaunted Florida State squad — a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter.

Florida State responded strongly to NC State's momentum changing touchdown. Manuel threw to his two tallest receivers to pick up big chunks of yardage. He connected on a 27-yarder to 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin to the NCSU 47. Manuel then later threw a 20-yard dart to 6-6 senior wide receiver Roddy Smith down to the 27-yard line.

NC State's defense responded just as it has for the majority of the game. Junior cornerback Dontae Johnson came off the edge to sack Manuel for a loss of 17 yards, and just as important, pushed the Seminoles out of field-goal range.

Johnson played one of his strongest games of his NC State career, whether in run support or going against the Seminoles cadre of wide receivers. Fellow cornerbacks Burris and junior David Amerson also played well in slowing down Manuel, who finished with 218 passing yards.

"They went after him [Johnson] today and he responded," O'Brien said. "He knocked the ball down on a deep throw, and he played nickel. I think he had a big day as a lot of guys did."

NC State marched right down the field when it got the ball back. Glennon found Payton for a pair of passes for a combined 24 yards to the FSU 36-yard line. Florida State's defense toughened up and only gave up four more yards, and NC State turned the ball over on downs with 2:47 left in the game.

NC State did have all three of its timeouts left, and the Wolfpack worked feverishly to get one more shot at pulling off the upset. The defense stuffed all three Seminoles' running plays, and the Wolfpack called their last timeout right before fourth down and nine with 2:34 remaining. Rose busted through for the game-changing and historic blocked punt.

"At that point of the game, I thought we had to go after it," O'Brien said. "You want to create a shorter field. We hadn't tried to block it all day. Coach [Jerry] Petercuskie made a good choice to go after it."

Glennon's only interception didn't come back to hurt the Wolfpack. Junior free safety Terrence Brooks picked off the poor throwing decision and returned it to the FSU 45-yard line with 10:56 left in the second quarter.

NC State's defense gave a precursor of the rest of the game by rising up, and outside linebackers Rickey Dowdy, a redshirt junior, and sophomore Brandon Pittman came through with back-to-back sacks, followed by a penalty on the Seminoles sophomore left guard Josue Matias. The three plays pushed FSU back to its own 34 and eventually had to punt.


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