TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Bobby Bowden won't be the only one feeling increasing heat to announce his retirement.
Add the defensive coaches to that pot, too.
Though a week of turmoil seemingly sparked the Seminoles offense, especially in the first half, the defense continued its struggles and looked almost helpless against Georgia Tech's option attack as the Yellow Jackets won a shootout 49-44 Saturday night.
"The critics will keep criticizing," Bowden said. "The good folks won't."
The Seminoles (2-4, 0-3 ACC) matched their worst six-game start in the Bowden era, his inaugural season of 1976; FSU finished 5-6 that year, Bowden's lone losing season in Tallahassee.
"That was the easiest game to summarize," Bowden said. "We simply couldn't stop them."
Meanwhile, the No. 22-ranked Yellow Jackets (5-1, 3-1), who had been 0-6 at Doak Campbell Stadium, rushed for 401 yards, the most FSU has allowed since giving up 413 to Bo Jackson-led Auburn in 1985.
Down 42-38, the Seminoles got a break when the Yellow Jackets botched a pitch and defensive tackle Moses McCray, the former Hillsborough High star, recovered at the 38.
But after two completions moved the ball to the Tech 30, junior quarterback Christian Ponder, who had a stellar game with five touchdown passes, was sacked for the first time and fumbled the ball away with 10:06 left.
The FSU defense made one more play when linebacker Nigel Carr scooped up a Yellow Jackets fumble, but quarterback Josh Nesbitt pried the ball away from him. Nesbitt followed with a 22-yard touchdown run moments later to all but seal the win.
Ponder's 13-yard touchdown to Rod Owens brought FSU back within 49-44, but the Seminoles failed on the two-point conversion.
Nesbitt lost a fumble on the second play of the second half; Tech had only one turnover in its three previous games combined. But FSU failed to capitalize when Owens cut in front of an open Bert Reed and dropped a third-down pass. Freshman Dustin Hopkins then missed a 45-yard field goal.
With that reprieve, Nesbitt hit star receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 73-yard touchdown on the next play (that scoring drive lasted 11 seconds).
A 49-yard run by freshman tailback Chris Thompson led to a 40-yard Hopkins field goal as the Seminoles regained the lead. Tech then ran 16 plays and 9:07 to go 80 yards for a touchdown that gave it a 42-28 lead late in the third quarter.
In a sign of team unity, the Seminoles didn't run out of the tunnel but came out walking and holding hands with Bowden front and center.
Jermaine Thomas opened the scoring with a 3-yard run for FSU but the Yellow Jackets, the ACC's No. 2 offense (averaging 405.6 yards with their triple option), weren't about to be showed up by the league's No. 3 offense (403.4) as Nesbitt answered with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Lightning in the area then suspended play for 79 minutes, but the Seminoles didn't miss a beat as Ponder capped another impressive drive with an 11-yard touchdown to sophomore tight end Beau Reliford.
After the teams traded touchdowns, Tech needed just 12 seconds to tie again. This time, junior running back Jonathan Dwyer, who had 241 yards rushing the past two games, burst around left end and raced 69 yards for the touchdown.
Ponder remained red-hot and hit a leaping Jarmon Fortson for a 17-yard touchdown.
This time the Yellow Jackets needed more than seconds to tie it again, but Dwyer's 2-yard run did that.
The Seminoles marched 71 yards — the final 3 yards on a pass in which Thomas stretched the ball out in his right hand before stepping out of bounds — for their fifth touchdown in five possessions and a 35-28 lead.
The offensive numbers, for both teams, were eye-popping in the half. FSU rolled up 403 yards as Ponder hit 18-of-21 for 267 yards and a career-high four touchdowns and Thomas had a season-best 103 yards on 17 carries. Tech gained 243 yards.
"Forty-four points should have won that game," Bowden said.