Florida State coach Bobby Bowden never saw it coming.
Even a day later, he still can't believe how poorly his vaunted defense played in Saturday's 48-35 win over North Carolina State.
"I thought we might have had a lock," Bowden said Sunday morning, shaking his head. "I was beginning to feel this team was coming together; that the defense, people can't score on that defense but once, and the offense was getting better. I was thinking this thing might be timing out perfectly. Then all of a sudden, our defense collapses."
The points were the most FSU has allowed to an ACC team since it joined the conference, surpassing the 33 Virginia scored in FSU's lone ACC loss. The 35 were the most allowed at home since Clemson scored 34 in 1989. In fact, FSU had allowed just seven points in three previous games at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Wolfpack amassed 448 yards, more than twice what FSU had been allowing. Its total included 181 on the ground. FSU had been holding teams to an average of 36.6 yards. And the five passing touchdowns _ all to Torry Holt _ doubled FSU's total allowed.
"I can understand going out there and getting 27 points and then the defense losing intensity," he said, referring to FSU's 27-0 lead. "Then after you have a good talk at halftime, I expect them to pick it back up. They never did. Now that concerns me."
He knows Saturday's opponent, undefeated North Carolina, will be the stiffest challenge his team has faced.
That game should decide the conference title and its automatic entry into the bowl alliance. If the winner remains undefeated, it could find itself in the Orange Bowl with a shot at the national title.
"At least we discovered it," Bowden said. "I don't know what to think now, but I know this: If it hadn't hit us this week, I betcha it would have hit us next week. At least, gosh, we've seen what can happen."
FSU slipped from first in total defense to fourth and from sixth in scoring defense to 15th.
"I'm a little surprised, but I'm not alarmed," senior middle linebacker Daryl Bush said after the game. "You could just sense it; our minds were not in the game. We have to stay focused no matter what the score is. That's something we have to work on."
MAJOR MINOR: A week after his sensational first start, freshman tailback Travis Minor put together another productive day. He gained 64 yards on 10 attempts and scored two touchdowns and added 56 yards on seven receptions and another score.
"That was so encouraging because if he would have had a nothing day, you would have said, "Well, he was a one-day wonder,'
" Bowden said. "But he's showing some real good signs. And it's still ahead of him."
HOLDING ON: Don't try to blame a missed extra point and botched snaps that prevented another extra-point attempt and a field goal on one person. Bowden said Clay Ingram's snaps might not have been the best, but holder Marcus Outzen tends to take off as soon as the ball hits the ground for whatever reason.
"I said, "Get the stinking ball down if it's bad; give him a shot at it,' " said Bowden, referring to kicker Sebastian Janikowski. "A soccer player can kick the ball off the ground. Janikowski can lay the ball flat and kick it."
WELCOME BACK: If it had been up to him, Bowden said he would have allowed senior defensive tackle Julian Pittman to return after a two-game suspension. Pittman, who pled no contest to charges of burglary and the fraudulent use of a credit card, missed seven games.
"My thinking is, you deserve forgiveness," Bowden said. "But see, I don't ever forgive them twice. If he steps out of line one more time, we won't have to have a judiciary committee to kick him off my team. They know that."
MEMBER OF THE PACK: As Bowden was being escorted off the field Saturday, he graciously stopped for a photograph with some fans _ the N.C. State cheerleaders.
O'CAIN IS ABLE: Embattled N.C. State coach Mike O'Cain received a strong vote of support from Bowden, who said: "It would be hard for me to think that somebody can coach any better than what he's coached this year."
_ BRIAN LANDMAN