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Ranking The Last Five Wins Vs FSU In Carter-Finley

September 26, 2014

This tweet from ESPN made the rounds yesterday:

I can vividly recall each and every one of those five wins–I managed to be there for four of them–so I figured I’d share with you my personal ranking for each of these upsets.

#5: 2002. No. 14 FSU 7, State 17

State had beaten FSU the year before to hand the Noles their first home ACC loss, so it seemed natural to expect FSU would come to Raleigh for blood. The Pack was reeling going into the game. Losses to Georgia Tech, Maryland and UVa had spoiled a 9-0 start and sunk the Pack’s ACC title and BCS game chances. Nevertheless, State showed up in its final regular season game and shut down Adrian McPherson and crew, limiting them to just seven points. McPherson would later get in hot water for betting on games in which he played, leading to some speculation that perhaps the dominating performance of the Wolfpack defense wasn’t all their doing.

Nevertheless, the win set the table for State’s memorable Gator Bowl win a few weeks later.

#4: 2006. No 17 FSU 20, State 24

The 2006 season might’ve been one of the strangest in recent Wolfpack history. It was Chuck Amato’s final year at his alma mater and came to a bitter conclusion. The team finished 3-9 and suffered one of the worst collapses you’ll ever see as a season unfolds.

And yet for all its pain, there were two remarkable finishes we’ll never forget that rank among the best moments in State football history. Daniel Evans, son of Johnny Evans, was a serviceable quarterback with an underpowered arm and limited size. But he carved a place for himself into State history in back to back weeks during his sophomore season. In week four in his first start, he led a final-minute comeback against soon-to-be-Amato’s-replacement Tom O’Brien and #20 Boston College with an amazing pass to John Dunlap in the back corner of the endzone:



A week later, he repeated the script: defeating FSU with a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in the back corner of the endzone–his third of the game–to John Dunlap again:



The story of Daniel Evans added an element to this upset that’s tough to beat, but I still think the next three games edge it out.

#3. 2010. No. 16 FSU 24, State 28

There are some games where you just feel like it’s inevitable that a team is going to score on you if you give them the chance.

The Pack had played well all game long and were FSU’s equal for more than three quarters. But by the fourth, the talent on FSU’s roster was seemingly too much for State to nullify any longer. The Noles marched down the field for a go-ahead field goal with 9:00 to go following a Russell Wilson interception, which was then countered with a clock-eating drive by the Pack the resulted in a touchdown to George Bryan on 4th and goal with 2:40 remaining to put the score at 28-24 State.

But those two minutes and change felt like an eternity, and methodically, the Seminoles marched right down the field again. They looked poised to punch the ball in once more for the sealing score when, in a moment that can only be described as “anti-NC State shit,” Christian Ponder fumbled the ball while trying to play-action pass. Nate Irving pounced on the ball, and there was your ballgame. Our defense couldn’t stop FSU at the end of the game–only the football gods who must have a soft spot for State against FSU in Carter-Finley could intervene.

It was also my son’s first FSU/State football game, a moment that surely sealed the deal for him becoming a lifelong State fan. (Sorry son.)



#2 2012. No 3. FSU 16, State 17

In 2010, Russell Wilson had his moment to shine against the Noles; Mike Glennon would get his shot two years later.

The game started poorly; State found itself in a 16-0 hole at the half and things looked bleak. But if you give a talented quarterback like Glennon time in a place like Carter-Finley at night, strange things can happen. Especially if the opposing quarterback is EJ Manuel, a talented but often frustrating quarterback who struggled down the stretch of that game.

On 3rd and 2 from the State 19, up 16-10 with roughly 10:00 left in the game, Florida State had the opportunity to either convert a short third down to inch closer to another score or at the very least, if they couldn’t convert, settle for a field goal that would make it a two-score game late. Inexplicably, Manuel scrambled right into a 16-yard sack that took them out of field goal range.

Not getting points there proved costly as, following a blocked punt with 2:27 remaining, State took possession with a short field and only down six. Needing to convert three 4th downs, including a 4th and 10 with a compressed field near the goal and 4th and goal, Glennon calmly tossed the game-winning score into the heart of the endzone, plunging a familiar dagger into the heart of FSU fans.



Who could forget the celebration that would follow and the enduring GIF-ready image of Jake Robinson twirling his shirt above his half-naked body without regard for humanity:


As great as that game was, for me there’s a clear-cut #1:

#1. 1998. No. 2 FSU 7, State 24

Yes, Florida State was ranked just one spot higher in 1998 than they were in 2012, but it’s hard to explain how much further the gap was between FSU and the rest of the ACC back in ’98. They were still the ass-kicking machine of the ’90s that won two national titles and had pro-caliber talent tucked away in places on their roster you hadn’t thought of before. The idea that the ACC needed to improve its football teams to catch up with Bobby Bowden’s war beast was a novel idea–a thing that the basketball schools would get to if they could. There weren’t many surer things than FSU kicking your teeth in, especially if you were an NC State team who was still recovering from the back-to-back 3-8 seasons of the O’Cain era a couple of years prior.

But a funny thing happened on the way to State’s funeral. Chris Weinke–future Heisman Trophy winner–managed to throw not one, two, or five interceptions. He threw six. There are pick sixes, and then there are six picks. He did the latter. Torry Holt took care of the rest. State didn’t have much pro talent on its roster at the time, but there was no doubt Torry was in that class. He returned a punt for a touchdown and caught another as well.



What put this as the clear #1 for me is that it was my first football assignment as a photographer. I had never shot a football game before, and was just hoping I would come back with some decent stuff we could run in the school paper. What I got was the biggest upset in school history and plenty of images of fans celebrating on the field. My biggest fear after the game was losing or damaging my camera gear, but it was fun being a part of a celebration like that. There have been on-field celebrations since that game, but I don’t know if any of them have ever matched it.

Might we add another to the list tomorrow? At this point, nothing surprises me when these two teams meet in Raleigh.

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