WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Florida State's young quarterback had struggled much of the day. And the winless Seminoles — dinged up with injuries and struggling to contend with Wake Forest's defensive front — were on the edge of adding to a month's worth of struggles.
Instead, they finally figured a way out.
James Blackman connected with former Wharton standout Auden Tate on a 40-yard touchdown throw with 53 seconds left, helping FSU rally past Wake Forest 26-19 on Saturday.
In front of 31,580, it wasn't a performance in line with the preseason expectations that had FSU starting the year as the No. 3-ranked team and the ACC favorite. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher didn't care, either, calling it "just the next step" for a team that desperately needed to take one. "Winning football," Fisher said, "isn't always pretty."
The Seminoles host Miami next Saturday, seeking an eighth straight win over the Hurricanes that would be a record for either team in the series.
Blackman — the freshman pressed into a starting role due to injury to Deondre Francois in the opener — had thrown for just 81 yards entering that final drive for the Seminoles (1-2, 1-1 ACC). But after the FSU defense forced a three-and-out, Blackman was perfect with the downfield shot to Tate — who caught the ball despite a pass-interference penalty by defender Amari Henderson as well as a shoulder injury sustained last week that had Tate in and out of the lineup. Tate was tangled with Henderson until pulling free just in time.
"I was just trying to get my arm off him so I could try to make the catch," Tate said. "And I got it out, last second."
Blackman had another big fourth-quarter throw, a 43-yarder down the left sideline to Keith Gavin on a third and 20. That ultimately set up Ricky Aguayo's 35-yard kick to tie it at 19 with 6:20 left. Aguayo made four field goals to push his made-kicks streak to eight.
"Just got to find a way, man, no matter what it is," said Jacques Patrick, who ran for 120 yards and a score for FSU.
"We came out here, we did what we had to do to get the W. That's the first step: finding out how to win. We found a way. And next week we'll try to find another way to win."
Wake Forest (4-1, 1-1) had a final chance to tie, but John Wolford's heave to the end zone for Scotty Washington was knocked down by Derwin James.
"Three years ago, or even two years ago, this would have been a moral victory," coach Dave Clawson said. "Those in our program no longer exist. There is nobody that left there and said, 'Hey man, we played with Florida State.' That locker room is crushed and devastated."
The Demon Deacons outgained FSU 367-270, had five sacks along with other big hits on Blackman, and had 17 tackles for loss.