Photo courtesy of Garnet and Great/Florida State football archivist
For Florida State, trips to Raleigh are rarely easy. Since 1998, the Seminoles are just 5-7 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
On this day five years ago however, FSU’s trip ended in triumph. A late touchdown pass was the difference as the Seminoles rallied from 10 points down for a 24-20 victory.
Setting the Stage
After ascending to No. 2 early in the season, FSU was just 5-3 as it arrived in Raleigh on Nov. 5, 2016. The Seminoles were ranked No. 22 in the College Football Playoff rankings and needed to run the table to have any chance of playing in a major bowl game.
NC State was 4-4 and on a 3-game losing streak, but had hung tough with the likes of No. 3 Clemson and Boston College. The Wolfpack were in need of a big win and for a large portion of the night, that seemed possible.
Momentum had swung heavily in favor of NC State late in the third quarter. Jaylen Samuels’ 23-yard touchdown run had capped a 99-yard drive and give the Wolfpack a healthy 20-10 lead with 3:05 remaining in the period.
FSU however, had an answer. The Seminoles proceeded to march 70 yards for a score. After being bottled up for much of the night, All-American running back Dalvin Cook scored from 10 yards away on the final play of the period to cut the lead back to three.
After three punts began the final quarter, FSU took over at its own 17-yard-line with less than five minutes remaining. The march for FSU started with an incomplete pass, but quarterback Deondre Francois responded with strikes of 27 yards to Kermit Whitfield and 37 yards to Nyqwan Murray.
With the ball inside the NC State 20-yard-line, Francois’ second misfire was followed by a kill shot. Facing heavy pressure, Francois hung in the pocket before lofting one toward the goal line. Wide receiver Travis Rudolph was coming out of his break when the ball found him. Rudolph made the catch and easily scored the 19-yard touchdown to give the Seminoles their first lead of the night with 3:09 remaining.
Down 24-20, the final NC State drive reached the FSU 24-yard-line. After two incomplete passes and a tackle for loss, Ryan Finley’s final throw of the night was incomplete and the Florida State comeback was complete.
The only points of the first quarter came late in the period. Finley and Bra’Lon Cherry hooked up for a 28-yard touchdown to give NC State the early 7-0 lead.
After an exchange of field goals in the second quarter, FSU drew even with 1:20 left in the first half as Jacques Patrick carried for the tying 2-yard touchdown. NC State however, had an answer as Connor Haskins’ second field goal of the night gave the Wolfpack a 13-10 lead at the break.
NC State finished with 469 yards of offense to 393 for FSU, but that was not enough. Francois passed for 330 yards in the win while Finley finished with 304 yards passing for NC State.
NC State’s Matt Dayes led all rushers with 104 yards. Nyheim Hines led NC State in receiving with 11 catches for 124 yards. Nyqwan Murray paced FSU with nine grabs for a game-high 153 yards.
Defensively, DeMarcus Walker led FSU with two sacks. FSU’s Tarvarus McFadden had the game’s only interception.
The victory for FSU would begin a 5-game winning streak to end the year as the Seminoles reached 10 wins for the fifth straight season. They capped the year with a 33-32 win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl and a top-10 national ranking.
NC State managed to have a winning season. After beating Syracuse and North Carolina on the road to become bowl-eligible, the Wolfpack closed the year with a 41-17 win over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.
During the 2016 season, four of NC State’s six losses came by seven points or less. That last such contest came on this day five years ago.