There were no regrets this time for N.C. State. No “almosts, ”“what-ifs?” or disappointment after a series of close calls against top-25 teams.
Bradley Chubb made sure of that. So did Jaylen Samuels and Jakoby Meyers and, yes, even the kicker.
All of the mistakes and missed steps that had cost N.C. State previously all went by the wayside in a 27-21 win at No. 12 Florida State on Saturday.
N.C. State (3-1, 1-0 ACC) broke a 10-game losing streak to top-25 opponents and buried some of its recent anguish in spotlight games.
“We’ve been in this situation way too many times,” Chubb said. “To get over the hump of almost getting there, to finally get one it’s just amazing.”
Chubb (two sacks, forced fumble) and Samuels (two touchdowns) took the almost out of the equation in the first win over a ranked team for coach Dave Doeren and the program’s first road win over a top-25 team since 2008.
Doeren, in his fifth year, insisted before the game it wasn’t about him. He said the same thing after a well-earned emotional celebration in the locker room.
“Just to see the euphoria in (the players’) faces in that locker room and feel how much went into that journey, that’s why I coach,” Doeren said. “I loved every second of that, and I’m so proud of those guys.”
N.C. State has lived with enough anguish the past four years to last a lifetime. It was a dropped interception last year against the Seminoles that proved to be the difference. That was only outdone by a missed kick at Clemson. There’s a reason Doeren called it a season of “almosts.”
But it was Florida State (0-2, 0-1) that made the mistakes on Saturday with 11 penalties and an easy missed field goal (a 30-yarder in the second quarter).
The first inkling it was N.C. State’s day was when Carson Wise made a 24-yard field goal on the first drive of the game. He also added a 30-yarder in the third quarter.
Even Doeren, with a touch of humor, noted “our kicker made the kicks today.”
But it was the repeated tough plays – Chubb’s fumble, a key third-down stop by linebacker Airius Moore, a key third-down catch by receiver Stephen Louis or third-down run by running back Nyheim Hines – that added all up to the big win.
“That’s what you’ve got to do in a game like this,” Doeren said. “You’ve got to make the plays.”
Florida State got some big plays from receiver Auden Tate but an apparent wrist injury knocked him out of the game early in the third quarter. Tate had nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman quarterback James Blackman, in his first career start, wasn’t quite the same without Tate. Not that Chubb and the Wolfpack defensive line, responsible for four sacks, gave Blackman much room.
Chubb sacked Blackman twice and forced a fumble on a quarterback scramble in the second quarter. Meyers had a 71-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter and finished with 112 yards, a week after not even playing.
It is N.C. State’s first win over a ranked opponent since a home upset of No. 3 FSU in 2012. The Wolfpack has had its chances the past four years with the Noles. N.C. State has outscored Florida State 58-14 in the first quarter in the past four games.
The Wolfpack got off to another fast start on Saturday with leads of 10-0 and 17-7 in the first half. Samuels’ extra effort on a fourth-down run netted a 2-yard touchdown for a 10-0 lead at 3:20 in the first quarter.
After Chubb forced a fumble, N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley (22-of-32, 230 yards) hit Meyers for a 71-yard touchdown and a 17-7 advantage with 1:34 left in the half.
Samuels’ 14-yard touchdown, on a shovel pass from Finley, gave N.C. State a 27-16 lead at 9:16 in the fourth quarter.
Florida State got two points back on a safety, after Finley couldn’t handle an errant snap in the end zone, and three points after a blocked punt.
But with the clock running out, and FSU out of timeouts, Hines (24 carries, 94 yards) ran for 15 yards on third down to ice the game.
Finally, after so many close calls, N.C. State didn’t have to figure out what went wrong. All it had to do when the clock hit all zeros was celebrate.
“We knew our time was coming,” Samuels said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio