RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Christian Ponder threw for the go-ahead touchdown and Antone Smith ran for a score Thursday night to help Florida State beat North Carolina State 26-17.
Smith finished with 89 yards rushing for the Seminoles (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed by four points early in the final quarter before scoring 13 straight to end the game. Bert Reed added the 17-yard catch for the lead and Graham Gano kicked four field goals — including a 53-yarder with 1:53 left to seal the win.
Russell Wilson threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wolfpack (2-5, 0-3).
The game marked a homecoming for Seminoles assistant Chuck Amato, who led the Wolfpack program for seven years before being fired at the end of the 2006 season and replaced by Tom O'Brien. Amato won 49 games and reached five bowl games, with most of that success coming during the career of four-year starter and NFL first-round draft pick Philip Rivers at quarterback.
Last year, the Wolfpack started 1-5 in O'Brien's first season heading into the off week, but came out of the break with four straight wins that put bowl eligibility within reach before closing with consecutive losses. The Wolfpack came out of this year's break with another surge — this one behind a once-anemic ground game.
N.C. State entered with an ACC-worst 80 yards rushing per game and faced the league's top run defense (64 yards per game), but rolled to a season-best 157 yards on 22 carries. Jamelle Eugene led the team with 74 yards on six carries, while Andre Brown added 50 yards.
That opened things downfield and set up Wilson's long play-action pass over the middle to Owen Spencer, who sprinted away from defender Korey Mangum for a 67-yard score and a 17-13 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
But Ponder directed a 70-yard drive to answer, pushing to N.C. State's 17 before finding Reed, who got a solid block at the line and then weaved through the Wolfpack defense for a 20-17 lead with 10:40 to play.
Then, after forcing a three-and-out, the Seminoles put together a drive that took more than 4 minutes. This one ended with a 44-yard field goal from Gano to make it 23-17 with 4:33 left, forcing the Wolfpack to go the distance to take the lead.
That was too much to ask, as N.C. State made two critical mistakes on its last best chance. First, a holding penalty negated a 14-yard run by Wilson to midfield, then Wilson took a sack and a 9-yard loss instead of throwing it away on third down. That forced N.C. State into a fourth-and-14 from its own 30, and Rod Roberts tipped Wilson's pass intended for Eugene to end the possession with 2:55 left.