Florida State Seminoles football took their talents to Raleigh, North Carolina this weekend to face the No.14 NC State Wolfpack. After starting the season 4-1 with a 2-1 conference record, the Noles were set to face one of their biggest defensive tests of the season. The Wolfpack were highly regarded with having one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC prior to the start of the season. The story of the game was supposed to be an offensive battle, but the Wolfpack’s defense put on the ultimate showcase.
Despite big performances from linebacker Tatum Bethune, defensive lineman Pat Payton and defensive end Jared Verse, Florida State struggled against the run in the second half and struggled on the offensive end for the majority of the game. They allowed 16 points scored in the second half, even with NC State’s decision to attempt just one pass with their backup. There’s never a main excuse for a loss, but injuries tortured the Noles defensive line. They fall to 4-2 with their second straight loss of the season.
Florida State’s offense had an empty drive to start the game; with 9:30 left in the first quarter NC State quarterback Devin Leary took the field to face the Noles defense. Defensive tackle Malcolm Ray took down Leary on the second play to put the Wolfpack in a third and long attempt, which was incomplete. The Seminoles were clearly rushing the quarterback with inside pressure to make sure Leary doesn’t get comfortable in the pocket.
The defense registered one sack and one tackle for loss on the first drive. With a short field to work with, the Wolfpack were moving the ball downfield in a hurry. Defensive tackle Robert Cooper and cornerback Kevin Knowles dealt with injuries on early drives that had them sidelined. The Noles forced NC State into a field goal attempt after, to put the Wolfpack up 3-0 with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
Head coach Mike Norvell and the staff decided to go for it on fourth and three and it was incomplete to wide receiver Johnny Wilson. The defense was yet again tasked with facing a hungry offense that was eager to put a touchdown on the board. NC State ran all over the Noles to push them within Seminoles territory, but the duo of Verse and linebacker Kalen DeLoach stepped up to put away the Wolfpack’s attack.
The Seminoles bull-rushed Leary and the offense after an incredible touchdown drive from quarterback Jordan Travis. The offense was back on the gridiron with 10 minutes remaining, up 7-3 against the Wolfpack. Defensive end Patrick Payton entered the game midway through the second quarter and made an immediate impact on run plays. The momentum was pointing slightly toward the Noles, just before Leary found a receiver wide-open for a 34-yard gain.
Safety Jammie Robinson secured an interception from Leary on fourth and one, which gave the Noles offense a chance to extend the lead. Florida State did just that, punching another touchdown in the end zone to go up 14-3. FSU’s defense needed to hold down the fort for one more drive and make sure they didn’t give NC State any sign of confidence. Not only did they stop the Wolfpack from scoring, but the Noles were able to put three more points on NC State. Florida State went into the locker room with a 17-3 lead.
NC State started the second half with the ball, clearly carrying weight on their shoulders. Leary and company knew it was an important drive to get any points available, drawing up clean plays and blocks to push them down the field. The Seminoles missed tackle after tackle, giving the Wolfpack too much space to work with. A quick drive led to a touchdown from the Wolfpack. They crept into the red zone with ease, cutting the deficit down to 17-10.
The Noles missed an opportunity to extend an offensive drive, so the ball was handed back to NC State’s playmakers with newfound confidence. FSU’s defense didn’t step up to the plate as it seemed, but the Wolfpack dealt with a drop and missed opportunities to push them off the field. Florida State’s offense was struggling, so the pressure was picking away at the Noles defense to make sure NC State doesn’t have a chance to tie up the game.
Pass interference and roughing the passer calls gave NC State multiple chances to keep the drive going, but Leary went down with an injury and headed to the locker room. NC State quarterback Jack Chambers took the field to attempt his first completion in a Wolfpack uniform. One of the biggest negatives for the Noles was the fact that they did not prepare to face Chambers, and his skillset was likely a new sighting.
Chambers helped lead the Wolfpack into scoring distance, cutting the deficit to 17-13. After another empty drive from Florida State’s offense, they elected to punt the ball. Punter Alex Mastromanno made a slight mistake that gave the Wolfpack a 13-yard field. Chambers and the offense weren’t able to score a touchdown with flags and sacks plaguing their success, but a 53-yard field goal put NC State within one, 17-16 Florida State.
The Wolfpack were finding wide-open gaps in the run game that led to an easy 27-yard field goal, giving NC State their first lead of the game since early in the first quarter. An interception from Travis welcomed Chambers and the NC State offense back on the field, to extend the lead and push the scoring margin into uncomfortable territory. The Wolfpack kept running the ball successfully and an interception from NC State closed the game.
Standout players from FSU vs. WF
Linebacker Tatum Bethune
The linebacker room seems to be the most consistent group for the Noles. Each week Bethune or DeLoach leads the tempo, which ultimately makes the entire secondary behind them better. Bethune finished the game with two and a half tackles for loss and a season-high 14 tackles. He’s one of the Noles most important players, making key plays with his veteran mindset.
Defensive back Jammie Robinson
Robinson was responsible for an interception in the first half that helped push the Noles toward a 17-3 lead heading into halftime. He ended the game with one pick and nine tackles. The top safety played a great game and kept the Wolfpack offense in front of him yet again, keeping big plays away from the stat sheet.