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FSU gives away play, takes advantage

N.C. State gets a third-down replay but fumbles, leading to a 'Noles TD.

ZACHARY SPAIN
Published November 16, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - At a point in Saturday's game when everything seemed to be going wrong for Florida State, a unique turn of events changed the complexion of its 50-44 overtime win.

With 23 seconds left in the first half, FSU capped a two-play drive with Chris Rix's 8-yard touchdown to a streaking Craphonso Thorpe in the back of the end zone. That cut North Carolina State's lead to 20-17.

"Getting that touchdown was huge and took some pressure off of us going into halftime," Rix said.

It also quickly turned the momentum in FSU's favor, but how the Seminoles got there tells the story.

With less than a minute left in the half, Wolfpack tailback T.A. McLendon was stopped for a 3-yard loss by Allen Augustin and Jerome Carter. After an FSU timeout, Chamberlain High graduate Brodrick Bunkley tackled McLendon for no gain on third and 9 inside the N.C. State 10 and the Seminoles used their second timeout.

That was when things got interesting. After deliberating with the officiating crew for several moments, referee Jack Childress ruled FSU called timeout before the snap, nullifying the play and giving the Wolfpack a second chance at third down.

Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews said the Seminoles had only 10 players on the field.

"I didn't know what was going on," Bunkley said. "I know they set the ball down and reran the play."

Quarterback Philip Rivers handed off again to McLendon, who was tackled by the collar by rover Jerome Carter, who forced a fumble. Bunkley recovered at the 3-yard line.

"(N.C. State) did the same thing over, just to the other side," Bunkley said. "He bounced off a couple tackles, got outside and let (the ball) go and I just hopped on it."

The chorus of boos ceased, but only briefly. On the ensuing first and goal, Rix ran a naked bootleg for no gain, failing to get out of bounds. The Seminoles used their final timeout. Rix said he saw Thorpe open as he rolled right, but was hesitant to throw.

"I should have hit him but I saw some grass and wanted to be safe," Rix said.

Rix connected with Thorpe on the next play.

"I told (Thorpe) at halftime sorry I missed you on the first one, but way to go on the touchdown,' Rix said. "We needed that score before the half."

And, as much as any one play can change the face of what was a back-and-forth shootout, that sequence seemed to boost the Seminoles.

"To get a score before the half," Bunkley said, "the momentum shoots through the roof."

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