TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's supposed to be darkest before dawn. N.C. State can only hope so.
A week before its annual game with North Carolina, the Wolfpack got trounced by Florida State, 34-0 on Saturday in its 15th straight division road loss.
Battered and embarrassed, the Wolfpack fell to 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the ACC as it was shutout for the first time since the 2008 season-opener and the first time in an ACC road game since 1990.
"Certainly we have to learn from this and get back on the practice field and get ready to play in the month of November," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said.
FSU, which gave up 70 points in consecutive ACC losses to Clemson and Wake Forest earlier this season, forced three turnovers by N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon and sacked him three times in holding the Wolfpack's offense to a season-low (318 vs. Liberty) 166 yards.
Glennon finished with a season-low 130 yards on 19-of-34 passing with two interceptions.
"That's the best defense we've played all year," said Glennon, who was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season. "They're fast, athletic and they really did a great job."
While Glennon struggled, FSU's E.J. Manuel put on a show with 321 passing yards and two touchdowns. On the same day FSU honored three of its great teams from the early 1990s, Manuel turned back the clock and played like Charlie Ward, the 1993 Heisman Trophy winner.
N.C. State's defense, which bottled up Virginia a week ago in an ACC road win, had no answer for Manuel or FSU's perimeter speed.
"For some reason, we couldn't tackle today," said linebacker Audie Cole.
The Seminoles (5-3, 3-2), ranked No. 6 in the preseason, are beginning to play like the team they were expected to be before the season started. They have won three straight lopsided ACC games.
Manuel, who missed one start and parts of three games with a shoulder injury, has keyed FSU's resurgence.
"He's been the difference in their team," O'Brien said. "When he went down, they had problems. He's back and they're back to being a top 10 football team."
Manuel sprung Devonta Freeman for the first touchdown, a 7-yard run after perfectly execute opine pitch.
After a Dustin Hopkins field goal, Lonnie Pryor carried four N.C. State defenders into the end zone on an 8-yard touchdown run to make it 17-0 at 6:57 in the second quarter.
Glennon threw an interception into double-coverage, on a deep route to receiver Bryan Underwood with 2:16 left in the half. The Noles quickly moved the ball into the Pack's end of the field and Manuel threaded a touchdown to receiver Kenny Shaw with 54 seconds left to take a 24-0 advantage into the half.
N.C. State's two best scoring chances were undone by mistakes. With the ball on FSU's 29 in the second quarter and down 10-0 Glennon tried to throw the ball away but was intercepted by Lamarcus Joyner. After a review, the interception was overturned, but tackle R.J. Mattes jumped offsides, sending N.C. State's offense five yards backwards.
After an incomplete pass, O'Brien sent kicker Niklas Sade out for a 52-yard field goal attempt, but it fell four yards short.
Down 24-0 in the third, Glennon moved the Pack's offense down to FSU's 23 but then fumbled a shotgun snap, giving the ball back to the Seminoles.
"We didn't give the quarterback enough time to throw the ball and it got to him I think," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said Glennon, who's eight starts into his college career, will learn from the loss.
Cole, who led the team with 10 tackles, said the team has to flush this loss and turn its attention to UNC, which it has beaten four straight years.
"We have to get better for next week," Cole said. "We have a big game."
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