Missed Opportunities Loom Large for #12 FSU in 27-21 Home Loss to NC State

Written by Manuel  DeLeon

​Tallahassee, FL— After waiting a very long 21 days to play, Florida State (0-2,0-1) came up just short in their ACC opener, falling to North Carolina State (3-1,1-0) 27-21. For the first time in the Jimbo Fisher era the Seminoles start their season 0-2.  True freshman quarterback James Blackman, making his first start in place of the injured Deondre Francois, turned in a solid performance throwing for 278 yards and one touchdown on 38 attempts in relief of last season’s ACC Rookie of the Year.

North Carolina State and head coach Dave Doeren came into Doak Campbell Stadium expecting to win. From the first Wolfpack possession until the last, North Carolina State took control of the game. After a Carson Wise field goal to begin the scoring for both teams, the Wolfpack defense would stuff the Seminoles on their second drive of the game.  Using a mix of halfback Jaylen Samuels, quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Nyheim Hines, the Wolfpack stepped on the gas and never let up. Starting at their own 24-yard line, Finley and the ‘Pack drove 76 yards in 4:28 capped by a 2 yard Samuels touchdown run putting North Carolina State up 10-0.

“I’m really proud of our coaching staff and our players,” said Doeren. “The way they prepared, there was no doubt that we could win the football game”

Florida State would finally get on the board early in the second quarter. Looking to build the confidence of Blackman, Florida State turned to the quick screen game and another freshman, running back Cam Akers, who bust two bruising runs on the drive resulting in first downs. Finally, settling down after early jitters, Blackman would find wide receiver Auden Tate for 24 yards on the sideline. Blackman and Tate would connect 3 plays later, giving Blackman his first college touchdown pass on a beautifully thrown 4-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone, making the score 10-7 in favor of the Wolfpack.

Blackman definitely made the Wolfpack faithful take notice, one in particular was Doeren who praised the young quarterback saying, “for a freshman, he played well. He threw some good deep balls; he’s going to be a good player for them…For a freshman in his first college start he was pretty impressive.”

Blackman showed flashes of what made him a highly-touted recruit, but also mistakes that showed his youth and inexperience. On their second drive of the 2nd quarter Blackman scrambled to the right looking to make a play, but was met by NC State star defensive end Bradley Chubb (seven tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble) who jarred the ball loose and the ball was recovered by defensive back Shawn Boone, who finished with three tackles and a fumble recovery.

Finley sparked a fire under his team after he found wide receiver Jakobi Meyers on a slant and Meyers would do the rest, racing 71 yards for the Wolfpack touchdown. The catch and run was special in and itself, but it was the celebration; a front flip into the end zone that ignited NC State fans right before the half. Though, a penalty it was still amazing to see. FSU kicker Ricky Aguayo would tack on a field goal to close out the half making the score 17-10 Wolfpack.

Both teams would hold each other to just 3 points in the 3rd quarter. Though a low scoring quarter, Florida State found itself making big plays, but failed to capitalize on great field position. As a team, Florida State made it into the red zone 6 times, but only produce 1 touchdown. Blackman and Tate would hook up for a 51-yard pitch and catch setting the ‘Noles up at the ‘Pack 12-yard line, but the jubilation would be short lived as Tate would go down with an undisclosed right arm injury.

Florida State would have to settle for an Aguayo field goal to cut the NC State lead to four making the score 17-13. When Blackman had time to set up his passes, he was sacked 4 times, he showed great touch on the deep ball. George Campbell, making his first start at wide receiver for Florida State, was the recipient of Blackman’s longest pass of the night, who put it only where Campbell could get it right over his shoulder. Wise and Aguayo would exchange FG’s making the game 20-16 early in the 4th quarter.

Looking to put some distance between themselves and the Seminoles, the Wolfpack and Finley would get back to work picking the ‘Noles apart. With the help of Hines (24 carries for 99 yards) the ‘Pack drove 68 yard on the drive capped by a shovel pass from Finley to Samuels who took it to the end zone from 14 yards out putting the ‘Pack up 27-16. Jaylen Samuels, the senior standout, would finish with two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

Down by nine, the ‘Noles would catch a break in the form of a safety after the snap went over the head of Finley who had the wherewithal to knock it out the back of the endzone, making the score 27-18 with 6:18 minutes left. Blackman and the Seminoles would get 2 more chances at coming back, but could only manage another Aguayo field goal, making the final score 27-21.

Finley would finish with 230 yards passing, two touchdowns on 32 attempts. Finley extends his nation leading streak of passes without an interception with 224. 0-2 is new territory for Jimbo Fisher and the ‘Noles, but they look to get back on track September 30th when they travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to take on the Demon Deacon of Wake Forest. NC State welcomes Syracuse to Carter-Finley Stadium Sept. 30th, and looks to go 2-0 in the ACC.

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