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Saturday, October 31, 2009

For Wolfpack, another shootout, another loss

Posted by on Sat, Oct 31, 2009 at 4:16 PM

TV/RAYCOM—Florida State had just scored, the latest team to cross the plane in a game where neither team could stop the other. They'd just recaptured the lead 45-42 with 96 ticks remaining. A faint "d-fense, d-fense" chant began among Seminole fans in Doak Campbell Stadium, sounding more pleading than confident.

click to enlarge It started with the Duke game, shown here, but it's been this kind of an ACC season for N.C. State fans.
  • It started with the Duke game, shown here, but it's been this kind of an ACC season for N.C. State fans.

For four quarters, this contest looked like your classic "whoever has the ball last will win" script. Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson tossed five TDs. Florida State's running game accounted for 278 yards and a five scores of its own.

As the Seminoles prepared to kick off, Raycom ACC football analyst Doc Walker summed the game up best. "Highly entertaining. I doubt if either of these teams will be named champion this year, but highly entertaining," Walker said. "You're just not going to beat anybody really good if you can't stop them."

This was his best line of the night, and nothing else came close for a man who'd spent much of the previous three-and-a-half hours using terms like "bolo hit," "walk the dog," "it's a track meet," "it's like a video game" and, of course, "he must have baby oil rubbed all over himself because no one holds on."

Florida State's defenders did just enough to stave off the Wolfpack on that last possession, though it was more a case of time running out than Florida State stepping up. As Walker suggested, these are the type of games that are thrilling to play and even more so enjoyable to watch, but horrible to coach.

Even at halftime, it was clear that N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien was frustrated with a team that's surrendered an average of 44 points per ACC game en route to an 0-4 start in the league.

Asked by Raycom's Mike Hogewood after the intermission what his team needed to do to win, the third-year N.C. State head man responded, "We've got to stop them, you know, that'd be the best thing to do."

It didn't quite work out that way. Not for either team. The squads finished with a combined 1,088 yards of offense.

So Walker was right. It's exciting to watch 80-yard touchdown completions like the one Wilson threw to Owen Spencer in the first quarter, and to see 54-yard runs like Jermaine Thomas’ in the second, but when there are scores on five straight possessions, it stops being great offensive play and leaves you questioning if anyone can make a tackle.

Both teams played thrilling football Saturday, but neither one really played winning football.

It's hard to think Florida State, a once-elite program now scrapping by against the Wolfpack on Homecoming in front of its smallest crowd in 16 years, feels satisfied by the win.

The loss leaves N.C. State at 3-5 and needing to sweep its remaining contests to become bowl eligible. No matter how good Wilson plays, achieving that aim, or coming close even, starts with the other side of the ball.

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