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Bottom falls out for 'Noles

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published November 12, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - By the end, the stands were nearly empty.

It likely had nothing to do with the rain, which had stopped, or some Must-See TV. Not on this night. Not here. More likely, the scoreboard turned Doak Campbell Stadium, which wasn't full to start, into Duke's Wallace Wade; that is, pockets of fans surrounded like islands in a cement-gray sea.

Wake Forest 30, Florida State 0.

"In my whole entire life, I've never been involved with a team that has so much talent and came out and laid an egg like that," said a somber and stunned FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford, who struggled after he replaced an ineffective Xavier Lee in the first half. "They outfought us and outplayed us on almost every play."

That hammered home a painful realization for the fans: Their Seminoles just aren't what they used to be and the Demon Deacons, who aren't what they've usually been, look more like FSU of the past.

Check out the standings.

The No. 18 Demon Deacons 9-1, 5-1, who had lost 14 straight to FSU and hadn't won here since 1959, remain tied with Maryland for first in the ACC's Atlantic Division. They also set a record for wins in a season in this, their 105th year.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles (5-5, 3-5), who had won the ACC outright or claimed a share of the title 12 times in 14 years, must now beat 7-3 Western Michigan next weekend to avoid needing a upset of Florida in the season finale to become bowl eligible for the 25th consecutive year.

"We've probably got one of the longest bowl streaks; I don't think we've got the longest, but we ain't bad," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "Because of that, you'd like to hang onto something."

Suddenly, Boise doesn't sound so bad as a bowl destination, huh?

The Seminoles also saw their streak of not being shut out snapped at 232 games and were shut out at home for the first time in Bowden's 31-year era; Kansas beat them 28-0 on Sept. 22, 1973.

No wonder folks left.

The offense mustered a season-low 139 yards. That's the fewest since gaining a meager 121 in a 17-10 loss at North Carolina State in 2004.

"We were just inept," Bowden said. "It'd be hard to point your finger at one guy. It'd be mighty hard to point it at one guy. It was a complete team breakdown."

Lee, who returned for the last couple of series, was 5-of-13 for 61 yards and threw two interceptions, both right to Wake Forest defenders. He was frustrated that he was yanked so quickly, though he said it didn't surprise him.

Weatherford, back after a right foot injury, wasn't any better. The Land O'Lakes graduate finished 4-of-15 for 52 yards and also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He also was sacked four times.

"Both quarterbacks, I can't understand it, both quarterbacks were terrible," Bowden said, adding he doesn't know which one might start next weekend.

No one could have imagined this, though the Demon Deacons have been a pesky bunch for FSU over the years and brought in a veteran team loaded with fifth-year seniors.

After shutting out Virginia last weekend, the injury-plagued and young Seminoles defense seemed to be improving and Lee, with two starts under his belt, had seemingly provided a missing spark.

"We had such a good week of practice last week, I thought we really might be fixing to do something," Bowden said. "I was hoping last week was a good sign."

By the final quarter, the small group of Wake Forest fans huddled near the south end zone could be heard chanting, "Boo." Not to mock FSU but cheer freshman nose guard Boo Robinson. That might happen at places like Duke, but not here. Until this night.

"You have to look at yourself in the mirror and suck it back up and come out with a new attitude on Monday," cornerback Tony Carter said.

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or at (813) 226-3347. Times correspondent D.C. Reeves contributed to this report.