TALLAHASSEE - Florida State boasted one of the nation's top recruiting classes in February, and those freshmen showed last weekend why they were so highly regarded.
Four freshmen and a sophomore helped spark the top-ranked Seminoles, who were on the ropes against North Carolina State.
"Sometimes you don't emerge when you want to, you emerge when you have to," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Those guys are emerging out in that direction."
FSU called on DE Lorenzo Featherston and hybrid LB Jacob Pugh as the Seminoles trailed by double-digits midway through the third quarter.
The defensive front has been battered with NT Niles Lawrence-Stample out for the season and an array of others going down:
- Starting DE Mario Edwards Jr. and backup interior lineman Justin Shanks were ruled out before the game.
- Replacement NG Derrick Mitchell Jr. went down and did not return from a knee injury.
- Starting DT Eddie Goldman aggravated an ankle injury but returned.
Featherston (6 feet 7, 294 pounds) and Pugh (6-4, 236) filled in and changed the game. Featherston forced a fumble late in the third quarter and Pugh recovered. Rashad Greene caught a 4-yard touchdown on the ensuing series to give FSU its first lead of the day. It never trailed afterward.
"Just seeing them go through camp and coming to now, I definitely gave them a lot more trust than I did at the beginning," senior S Tyler Hunter said. "At the beginning, they're new to the system and it's hard for them to learn. But just week by week they start to pick it up more and more. I'm definitely confident in those guys now."
Fisher said, "They were the guys that made that key (play) that got us over the hump."
Offensively, freshman RB Dalvin Cook ran for a 19-yard touchdown after being upgraded to second string due to an injury to Mario Pender. And sophomore Jesus "Bobo" Wilson had a career day with 109 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Freshman WR Travis Rudolph, rated the No. 1 wideout in the nation by multiple recruiting sites, caught a 40-yard pass for his first reception.
"It definitely does help when young guys can step on the football field and make an instant impact," senior RB Karlos Williams said. "It does take a load off some of the older guys who do have a little bit of wear and tear. It shows we have football players that can play and are young. They are learning the offense and are moving forward and can help the team."
RUNNING GAME REEMERGES: FSU's rushing attack finally returned to its 2013 form in the second half Saturday. After averaging 3.5 yards per carry through three games, the Seminoles ran for 166 yards to bump their average to 5 while also topping two rushing touchdowns for the first time this season. The performance came a week after they netted 13 rushing yards against Clemson.
Information from the Orlando Sentinel was used in this report.