Florida State has made passing and catching -- one of the harder things to do on a consistent basis -- look easy the last decade. It became brutally difficult for the second-ranked Seminoles on Saturday.
North Carolina State, a 25-point underdog, threw more than a scare into highly ranked Florida State this time around, stunning the Seminoles 24-7 for the program's biggest upset in 31 years.
"To go out there and hold that offensive football team to seven points, that's miraculous, that is miraculous," said N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain, the upset easily the biggest victory of his six-year career.
"Nobody gave us a dog's chance of coming in here and winning this football game -- not a prayer," O'Cain said. "In fact it was going to be a 30-point game or whatever the heck it was. We have a great university here that nobody has heard about. I believe they heard about N.C. State today."
Torry Holt, who caught five touchdown passes against the Seminoles last season in a 48-35 loss, burned Florida State again, scoring on a 68-yard punt return and a 63-yard pass from Jamie Barnette with 9:31 left that sealed it for the Wolfpack.
"He hurt us again bad, he sure did," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "He made the plays that beat us -- he and that quarterback."
N.C. State (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) last beat a team ranked as high in 1967, defeating second-ranked Houston 16-6 on the road with the so-called "White Shoes" defense.
Wolfpack fans began lining the sidelines with three minutes to go. Thousands of fans stormed the field with 28 seconds left and several piled onto both goal posts as time expired.
The Seminoles (1-1, 0-1) have finished in the nation's top four in each of the last 11 seasons with six ACC championships in as many seasons, but Bowden still doesn't have a perfect record under his belt in 23 years at Tallahassee, Fla.
And the 69-year-old coach won't have one to his credit in 1998
"Yeah, I'm pretty stunned," said Bowden, whose team was shut out in three consecutive quarters for the first time since a 31-0 loss to Miami in 1988. "To get beat like that, I'm very surprised, surprised how we fell apart."
The Seminoles came in 47-1 in ACC games since joining the league in 1992 and riding an 18-game conference winning streak. But 26-year-old quarterback Chris Weinke threw a school-record six interceptions to doom Florida State.
"Our offense just could not execute at all," Bowden said. "That's the biggest surprise I've got. For some reason we couldn't throw the ball and catch."
"We needed for them to make some mistakes, we needed for them to throw some interceptions," said O'Cain, who pulled his left calf muscle on Holt's last TD and limped off the field after the victory. "But at the same time they threw the interceptions and we caught them. That is rising to the occasion, that is making plays."
Weinke was 8-of-29 before being benched midway through the fourth quarter after Holt's second score gave the Wolfpack a 24-7 lead. Weinke returned one series later, just long enough to tie the ACC record for interceptions, held by two others.
"The bottom line is execution and I didn't execute," Weinke said. "There was stuff open that I just missed. That is the factor in the game. If I hit some of those open guys at least we have a chance to win the game."
| North Carolina State's Torry Holt breaks away from the Florida State defense Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. Holt scored on a 68-yard punt return and a 63-yard pass from Jamie Barnette (AP) |
"You don't expect to lose around here -- that's the bottom line. Every time you play somebody they are coming after us. People are looking to beat us."
The Seminoles continued to pass -- the program's bread-and-butter -- most of the game despite the Wolfpack giving up 361 yards on the ground in its 34-31 season-opening victory against Ohio University. And Florida State paid dearly for it, likely being ousted from the national title picture in the second week of the season.
"I doubt if anybody is out yet with one loss ... but the way we played today we wouldn't even be in the top 20," Bowden said.
The Seminoles trailed heading into the fourth quarter for only the third time in 49 ACC games, but couldn't pull it out after starting fast.
Weinke completed a 74-yard scoring pass to Peter Warrick, who missed the week of practice with a sprained ankle, on Florida State's first play from scrimmage to stun the Wolfpack.
But the first play was one of the few highlights of the opening half for Weinke and the Seminole.
On Florida State's second series, Weinke completed a 62-yard pass to the Wolfpack 11, but three plays later threw the first of three first-half interceptions -- two in the end zone.
The Wolfpack drove 99 yards to close to 7-6 as Holt caught passes of 20 and 11 yards before Barnette found Eric Leak on a 31-yard scoring strike.
Less than 21/2 minutes later, Holt returned a punt 68 yards to give the Wolfpack a 13-7 lead, the first punt return for a score against the Seminoles since Nebraska's Dana Brinson took one 52 yards in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl.
The teams combined for 376 yards in the first quarter, including 174 yards passing by Weinke. But the sophomore hurt the Seminoles on numerous first-half possessions, going 6-for-19.
A 39-yard punt return by Dee Feaster set up the Seminoles at the Wolfpack 23 midway through the second quarter, but Weinke's pass was intercepted at the goal line by the diving Jason Perry, who made his third interception in two games.
N.C. State was threatening to build on its lead late in the half by driving to the Florida State 15, but Barnette was sacked twice and then threw an interception.
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