TALLAHASSEE — The only thing Florida State's defense didn't do Saturday night was score. But with the Seminoles offense enduring a horrendous outing, that might have been FSU's only chance for victory.
Despite thwarting numerous Wake Forest scoring opportunities, FSU came out on the losing end of a 12-3 decision.
"If our defense hadn't been playing good tonight, that score would have been awful," coach Bobby Bowden said. "That was a defensive struggle."
The struggle was made tougher by the seven turnovers committed by the offense. Time and again, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews' unit was asked to defend a short field, and it responded in nearly every instance.
After senior tailback Antone Smith fumbled in the first quarter deep in FSU territory, the Seminoles forced Wake to attempt a 27-yard field goal, which kicker Sam Swank missed.
Just before halftime, with the Seminoles down 3-0, Wake defensive back Kevin Patterson picked off a Christian Ponder pass and returned it to the Seminoles' 17. But FSU safety Jamie Robinson forced a fumble at the 2, and teammate Korey Mangum recovered to end the threat.
"Our kids fought for 60 minutes," said Andrews, whose unit allowed only four field goals. "We can win a lot of ballgames if we continue to keep the other team out of the end zone."
The Seminoles held Wake to 276 yards of offense, 217 passing and 59 rushing. Wake averaged 1.6 yards on 38 carries.
FSU also held Wake to 2-of-15 on third-down conversions. The Deacons failed in their only fourth-down try.
"It hurts to lose a game like this," senior safety Myron Rolle said. "I thought our defense played well, and our offense did some things well today. But it was a team effort, and when we lose, everybody hurts and everybody feels it."
Wake's offense did mount two long drives in the first half, but the Seminoles kept it off the board. Late in the first quarter, Deacons quarterback Riley Skinner hit receiver Marsh Williams on a 52-yard completion. But defensive end Everette Brown dropped tailback Brandon Pendergrass for a 9-yard loss on the next play. Safety Rod Roberts dropped Skinner for a sack two plays later to knock Wake out of field-goal range.
Midway through the second quarter, FSU dodged another threat when the Deacons marched to the 10 with a 56-yard drive. After initially sending Skinner out for a short field goal, coach Jim Grobe decided to go for it on fourth and 1, and linebacker Kenny Ingram deflected the pass near the line of scrimmage.