NC State pulled out an improbable 17-16 win over No. 3 Florida State in 2012, the last time the Seminoles visited Carter-Finley Stadium. With the two set to meet again Saturday, we decided to take a look back at the fourth quarter, from the NC State players’ perspective.
NC State trailed 16-3 when the fourth quarter began, but nobody on the Wolfpack sideline had given up hope. Not with Mike Glennon at quarterback. Not with the way the defense had shut down the Florida State offense in the third quarter.
“We all knew we were going to come back and win the game,” defensive tackle T.Y. McGill said. “Everybody on the sideline was into the game. The crowd, they were into the game. I believe Mike Glennon or one of the leaders was walking around making sure everybody was still keyed into what was going on.”
The Wolfpack began the quarter with the ball at their own 43. Three completions later, NC State was in position to score. On second-and-10 from the Florida State 24, Glennon went back to pass.
2012 NC State Upset: Shadrach Thornton 24yd TD
Clip from NC State's 17-16 upset win over Florida State. Shadrach Thornton 24yd TD pass from Mike Glennon.
“That play specifically, I knew we had a lot of deep routes going down the field and I would be the back out of the backfield in an option route,” running back Shadrach Thornton recalled. “I went out and did as I was coached to do. I broke away and Mike Glennon, he got me the football in stride, and I was able to turn the corner. I locked my eyes on the goal line. I saw the safety coming from afar and I saw the scoreboard and all I could think about was bringing us within a touchdown.
“I put everything I had into it to make it to the corner. The receiver had a pretty decent block back there by the end zone. I ran toward him, as they tried to bring me down from the side. I dove in and just crossing the goal line, I landed on my back. I laid there for a second, and when I glanced up I saw the referee hesitate and then he signaled for the touchdown. My heart began to race. I said, ‘Yes! This is what we planned to do. This is what we wanted to do.’”
The receiver who made the block was Bryan Underwood.
“It was a hot read, a play designed for the tight end, but their defense picked him up and Shad was open in the flat,” Underwood recalled. “I had to clear the area where I was, so I had to run my man off. I saw Shad catch the ball. The DB didn’t see it so I ran to the back of the end zone, fought him off and Shad did the rest.”
Confidence started to rise, with NC State trailing 16-10 with 13:47 to play. On the ensuing Florida State drive, the Seminoles drove to the NC State 19. Facing a crucial third-and-2, quarterback EJ Manuel went out on a bootleg. NC State safety Dontae Johnson sacked Manuel for a 15-yard loss, taking the Seminoles out of field goal range.
2012 NC State Upset: EJ Manuel Sacked
Clip from NC State's 17-16 upset win over Florida State. Dontae Johnson sacks EJ Manuel for a loss of 15 yards.
“I believe it was a blitz, he came on the outside and he got the sack,” McGill said. “We huddled up as a defense, and those were some of the key words that were going through the huddle at the time -- that it was on us.”
The teams traded punts, then NC State failed to convert on a fourth-and-10. Florida State got the ball back with 2:47 remaining.
On first down, Chris Thompson ran at Thomas Teal. Teal tackled him for a 2-yard loss.
“I figured they wanted to keep the ball on the ground,” Teal said. “They thought they could run the ball against us. Studying the film, I knew the formation and based on the stance, I knew what was coming at me so I played the block with great technique and I was able to make a play.”
NC State called timeout.
On second down, Thompson ran again at Teal, who made the tackle for a short gain.
NC State called timeout.
On third down, Manuel was stopped for no gain.
NC State called timeout.
Florida State went back to punt. Mike Rose got his hand on the ball, blocking the punt and setting NC State up at the Florida State 43 with 2:27 to go and no timeouts remaining.
2012 NC State Upset: Punt Block
Clip from NC State's 17-16 upset win over Florida State. Late in the fourth quarter, NC State blocks Florida State's punt.
“I remember vividly how he came through there,” NC State kicker Niklas Sade said. “As soon as he blocked it, you just knew we were going to go down and score a game-winning touchdown with time expiring.”
On the ensuing drive, Glennon converted two critical fourth downs to stay alive. The second, to Quintin Payton, gave NC State first-and-goal from the 2. NC State could not punch it in on the first three downs, leaving the Wolfpack with one last chance to win the game.
2012 NC State Upset: Go-Ahead Touchdown
Clip from NC State's 17-16 upset win over Florida State. Bryan Underwood 2yd touchdown reception from Mike Glennon.
“There were three receivers in the game: me, Tobais [Palmer] and [Quintin Payton],” Underwood explained. “Tobias was the slot and it was a motion for me to come down and run a shallow cross route across the middle, and Tobais curled behind me in case I was covered, he could get it. When I heard Mike call it, I was so wrapped up in the fact that I was one of the options, it shocked me because I didn’t think as a redshirt sophomore the coach would give an option for the game-winning touchdown to a redshirt sophomore.
“I was shocked about the play call before I even broke the huddle so I was going out there late, not really looking at the defense, just thinking this could happen to me or Tobais in the back of the end zone. They motioned me down, Mike gets the ball and throws it in, and the celebration begins.”
Sade knew he had to make the extra point to win.
“I knew Florida State was going to bring everything they had,” Sade said. “The most important thing for me was to be as fast as I could on the operation. With Scott [Thompson’s] snap being so fast and Wil [Baumann’s] holds -- they’re always perfect no matter what -- I knew I could cheat a little bit and go a little bit faster and know that I could still trust it and it would still be good.”
It was, and as a result, NC State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in its history.
“A sense of pride came across me,” Teal said. “There was so much work we put in. It was blow-for-blow for both teams, and we came out victorious. It’s just a great feeling to know you gave your all and came away with something.”