RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The mistakes — taking a bad sack, squandering timeouts, having a punt blocked — all added up to deal a heavy blow to Florida State's hopes of contending for the national championship.
It has left Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher with no shortage of things to focus on in the coming days.
"In a game like that, there are a lot of wouldas, couldas, shouldas," Fisher said after Saturday night's 17-16 loss at North Carolina State. "It comes down to execution and that comes down to coaching and we didn't do a good job, and it starts with me. We have to do a better job."
The Seminoles (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered Raleigh with a No. 3 ranking — their highest since 2003 — and looked headed for an easy win when they led 16-0 at halftime.
But N.C. State rallied and went ahead on a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds left, while EJ Manuel's desperation heave downfield was knocked away to end it moments later. The loss knocked Florida State to No. 12 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll heading into next week's game against Boston College.
There were obvious problems for the Seminoles. The defense that looked so dominant in the first half couldn't get much pressure on Mike Glennon behind the Wolfpack's injury-depleted and reshuffled offensive line. The offense that moved the chains so effectively behind the running of Chris Thompson (141 yards rushing) suddenly slowed to a crawl, with Manuel unable to make any big throws that the Seminoles needed as the Wolfpack inched back into the game.