House of Horrors: FSU collapses in second half, falls on road to NC State

FSU takes on NC State in Raleigh
FSU takes on NC State in Raleigh(Dominic Miranda | WCTV)
Published: Oct. 9, 2022 at 3:05 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC. (Noles247) - Carter-Finley Stadium, a traditional House of Horrors for Florida State, claimed another Seminoles squad as NC State overcame a 14-point deficit in the second half to beat FSU 19-17 on Saturday evening.

FSU has had some strange, frustrating losses in Raleigh over the years. Add this 2022 edition to the various meltdowns. Quarterback Jordan Travis, so strong to begin the year, had two interceptions in the second half including a pick in the end-zone with 37 seconds left with FSU down two and driving.

NC State out-scored FSU 16-0 in the second half.

The Seminoles built a 17-3 lead at half time, and it could’ve been up more had drops not ended two potential scoring drives. Struggling place kicker Ryan Fitzgerald connected on a 47-yard field goal to end the half as teammates swarmed him in celebration. All was right in the world for FSU (4-2, 2-2 ACC) as the Seminoles were looking to overcome their first loss of the season – to Wake Forest – with a road win against No. 14 NC State (5-1, 1-1 ACC).

Then started an FSU meltdown and a bizarre stretch that included a game-ending injury to NC State QB Devin Leary as well as a major special teams snafu by the Seminoles.

But, before that, the game-winning score by NC State: Chris Dunn, making his fourth field goal of the game, connected on his shortest kick of the evening as he knocked in a 27-yarder to give NC State a 19-17 lead with 6:33 left. The Wolfpack, with backup quarterback Jack Chambers in the game, ran seven times in a row on a short field right at FSU’s depleted defensive line – starting defensive tackle Fabien Lovett traveled with the team but did not play, and fellow starter Robert Cooper did not return from a first-The collapse, by then, was done. FSU had about 4-5 drops at critical junctures through the game while NC State managed to score on three straight drives with a backup QB to cap off a dominant second half in which the Wolfpack kept FSU scoreless and allowed just one first-down in a five-drive stretch.

Leary left the game in the third quarter with an apparent injury to his right shoulder. His throwing shoulder. The injury occurred when FSU defensive tackle Josh Farmer hit the quarterback as he threw the ball, his shoulder pad wedging under Leary’s right arm. Farmer was tagged for a personal-foul penalty as he was deemed to hit the signal caller high on the release.

Chambers, a graduate transfer from Charleston Southern, replaced Leary. Chambers helped finish a drive that ended with a 40-yard field goal by Christopher Dunn to cut FSU’s lead to 17-14 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Seminoles, looking to respond, picked up a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when veteran offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons finished a block after the play and got tangled up with an NC State defender. This derailed the drive. Then, punter Alex Mastromanno backed off a punt as he felt pressure and began to run the ball…and would’ve likely had the first down had he kept it as he rolled outside the rusher. However, Mastromanno ended up punting the ball a yard past the line-of-scrimmage, giving NC State the ball at FSU’s 13.

The bizarre sequence became even more bizarre, somehow.

NC State, in prime scoring position, got backed up to 3rd & 40 due to multiple stops by FSU’s defense and two holding penalties. But NC State kicker Christopher Dunn crushed a 53-yard field goal with 12:07 left to cut FSU’s lead to 17-16.quarter injury – to set up the go-ahead score.

FSU almost immediately followed that up with an interception by Travis, who threw the ball off balance on first down as cornerback Shyheim Battle jumped the pass thrown into a crowd.

FSU built a comfortable lead in the first half, going up 17-3 on a field goal as the second quarter expired with struggling kicker Ryan Fitzgerald connecting from 47 yards out. He was swarmed by teammates a week following two misses in a two-score loss to Wake Forest at home. That kick was set up by a misdirection on a punt return in which returner Mycah Pittman and blockers set up what looked like a muffed punt…only as Ontaria Wilson tracked the ball on the opposite side of the field by himself. He returned the ball 51 yards and the Seminoles were able to score two plays later to build the 14-point lead.

A sluggish start on offense – two drives, combining for 24 total yards, ended in punts and then another ended on downs after consecutive drops by wide receivers Malik McClain and Johnny Wilson inside the 25-yard line – was put to rest after QB Jordan Travis exploded on a read-option concept for 71 yards in the second quarter.

NC State’s elite run defense aimed to slow down FSU’s running backs early, but the aggressive run blitzes were used against them as Travis found a ton of open space as linebackers flew to a running back instead of the QB. The Seminoles scored on the very next play as Travis hit Pittman on a slot fade, and the undersized receiver got big as he wrestled the ball away from a defensive back for a 14-yard score to give FSU a 7-3 lead.

Meanwhile, FSU’s defense buckled down against a struggling NC State offense. The Seminoles forced three 3-and-outs in the first half, and also got a stop on 4th down late in the second quarter as safety Jammie Robinson picked off an errant throw from Devin Leary.

The offense capitalized swiftly off the takeaway. Trey Benson, filling in for injured running back Treshaun Ward after the starter left the game with an upper-arm injury, bounced a 26-yard run outside. Travis went back to Johnny Wilson on 3rd & 11 as the big receiver leapt into the air and boxed out a defender for 29 yards. On the very next play, Lawrance Toafili found a huge crease as an NC State linebacker keyed on Travis to open up an easy 12-yard scoring run.

FSU finished the game 387 yards of total offense while NC State had 307. Travis was 15-of-30 for 181 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions as his passer rating of 98.0 was by far his lowest of the 2022 campaign.