Five key plays ignited N.C. State's upset of No. 3 FSU

jgiglio@newsobserver.comOctober 8, 2012 

— The celebratory music blaring in Carter-Finley Stadium late Saturday night drowned out what N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien was trying to tell the ESPN2 audience after the Wolfpack’s upset of third-ranked Florida State.

The words to the song cranking on the loud speakers – “All I do is win, win win no matter what” – said more about N.C. State’s improbable 17-16 victory over the Seminoles than O’Brien could anyway.

Not that you can blame O’Brien, who has led the Wolfpack to 13 wins in its past 15 home games, for the loss of words. N.C. State has shown since the start of the 2010 season, it’s a team that defies explanation.

For every difficult loss, there has been a euphoric win. Since the start of the 2010 season, N.C. State’s 10-1 after a loss, including bounce-back effort after both losses this season.

The same N.C. State (4-2) team, which had penalties, turnovers and blown coverages in a 44-37 loss at Miami a week ago, knocked off the top team in the ACC with a complete defensive effort and timely execution on offense.

“That’s what we always say, it’s all about the next play, the next game, the bounce back,” senior linebacker Sterling Lucas said.

The Seminoles (5-1), a 17-point favorite, came to Raleigh with one eye on an ACC title and the other on a trip to the BCS title game. But an offense that averaged 51 points in its first two ACC wins, was held to one touchdown and three field goals and no points in the second half.

“This is as good as it gets,” said senior quarterback Mike Glennon, who delivered two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner to receiver Bryan Underwood with 16 seconds left.

But how did the Wolfpack get over Miami and then erase a 16-point Florida State lead on Saturday? With these five key plays:

•  Juston Burris’ interception: Down 16-3, and with Florida State’s offense driving into N.C. State territory, freshman cornerback Burris jumped a slant route by Rodney Smith with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.

Burris caught the ball at the N.C. State 30-yard line and returned it 11 yards to set up the Wolfpack offense with a short field. Glennon turned Burris’ first college interception into a 24-yard touchdown pass to freshman running back Shadrach Thornton, which cut FSU’s lead to 16-10.

Dontae Johnson’s sack: Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel responded to Thornton’s touchdown with two long pass plays, 27 yards to Kelvin Benjamin and 20 yards to Smith, to move the ball down to the N.C. State 19.

But on third-and-2, Manuel was sacked by N.C. State cornerback Johnson, who blitzed off the right edge and threw Manuel for a 15-yard loss.

Instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal, well within All-ACC kicker Dustin Hopkins’ range, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher elected to punt and let his defense protect the six-point lead.

Mike Rose’s punt block: Mike Rose is a reserve defensive end with a long reach, at 6-foot-4, and a quick step. By chance, when fullback Logan Winkles injured his ankle in the first half, N.C. State needed a replacement on the punt block team.

Enter Rose, who proceed to plow through Florida State blockers Demonte McAllister and Kevin Haplea, and get his out-stretched right hand on Cason Beatty’s punt.

The punt wobbled 10 yards to Florida State’s 43 to again set up the Wolfpack offense with a short field with 2:27 left.

Glennon’s fourth-down conversion to Quintin Payton: On the game-winning drive, Glennon, who finished with 259 passing yards, hit tight end Asa Watson for 7 yards on fourth-and-2 from the Florida State 35.

Then on fourth-and-10 from the 14, Glennon made the throw of the game, and the season for the Wolfpack, to Payton.

Payton, a junior who has become Glennon’s favorite target, beat cornerback Xaiver Rhodes to the post and Glennon hit him with perfect strike for 12 yards.

Glennon’s fourth-down touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood: For the third time on the drive, Glennon came through on fourth down. Glennon found Underwood, who was lined up to his right in the slot, on a simple clear out over the middle of Florida State’s defense.

Safety Terrence Brooks came over and popped Underwood after he caught the ball in the end zone but it was too late. The Wolfpack turn around was complete.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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