RALEIGH, N.C. — Florida State senior QB Christian Ponder said the key to bouncing back from Thursday night's last-minute loss at North Carolina State is maintaining the right attitude.
Focus on the next game.
Forget about the last game.
"For me, personally, it's going to be tough to swallow," he said after his fumble on second and goal from the N.C. State 4-yard line that sealed the Wolfpack's 28-24 win. "But as a leader, I've got to do it. And I will."
The Seminoles (6-2, 4-1) saw their hold on the top spot in the ACC's Atlantic Division slip away with one botched play, a fake handoff to RB Ty Jones that Ponder said he extended too far and hit Jones' hip.
Still, FSU is still in the hunt for a trip to Charlotte, N.C., and the league title game.
"I tip my hat to (Ponder) always because he controls us and he controls the offense," junior WR Bert Reed said. "We're going to rally around him."
Coach Jimbo Fisher, a former quarterback, understands that position often receives too much blame for losses and too much credit for wins. He called Thursday night a team defeat.
"We all share in that defeat," he said, "because in no aspect did I think we played our best ball, on special teams, on defense or on offense."
Not to take anything away from the Wolfpack (6-2, 3-1) or QB Russell Wilson, who scored three rushing touchdowns and threw for one in the final minutes. But consider:
• The Seminoles offense committed five first-quarter penalties, one of which (holding on RT Zebrie Sanders) nullified a 47-yard touchdown pass to Reed.
• A missed block led to Ponder getting hit and fumbling on the team's second play in the third quarter. The Wolfpack capitalized on the turnover to tie the score at 21.
• Sophomore WR Willie Haulstead dropped a long pass on a third-down play from the FSU 47 midway through the third quarter.
"A lot of the mistakes in that football game came from us," Fisher said. "We had control of it, and we let it get away, and you cannot go out there and hope to win games. You have to go take games. You have to win games."
Ponder, who showed no ill effects of the ruptured bursa sac in his right (throwing) elbow that he suffered against Boston College on Oct. 16, ran for two touchdowns and completed 17 of 28 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown to Haulstead.
"He was very sharp in that game, and … what he did and how he responded, he made some good plays," Fisher said. "Nobody hurts more than he does, I promise you."
Strong in defeat: Jones, a former Middleton High standout, ran for 108 yards on 10 carries to match his career high. He had 108 yards on 12 attempts against Brigham Young last season.
Did you know? Seven of the past 10 meetings between FSU and N.C. State have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Stat of the week: N.C. State converted 7 of 9 third-down conversion attempts in the second half (78 percent), and the two times it failed, it went for it on fourth down and made a big play, WR Darrell Davis' 35-yard catch on fourth and 4 from the FSU 36 and, moments later, TE George Bryan's 1-yard touchdown catch on fourth and goal for the winning score.
"We didn't keep our eyes on the quarterback, and he scrambled, and he made plays with his feet," Seminoles LB Nigel Bradham said. "We've just got to execute."
FSU entered the game second in the league at stopping third-downs conversion attempts; opponents had converted 33 percent of the time.
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347. Follow his coverage at seminoles.tampabay.com.