Noles Overcome Injuries To Beat Wake Forest 24-16
By Tim Linafelt Seminoles.com Senior Writer // October 4, 2015
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Florida State football team survived injuries, penalties and a heavy, constant wind against Wake Forest on Saturday.
As key contributors Dalvin Cook (hamstring), Terrance Smith (leg) and Nate Andrews (knee) all watched from the sidelines, the No. 9 Seminoles found themselves in a surprisingly tight contest with the upset-minded Demon Deacons.
But with Wake threatening to score and send the game to overtime, fifth-year senior Tyler Hunter picked off Kendall Hinton’s pass in the end zone to preserve a 24-16 victory here at BB&T Field.
The win ensures that FSU starts 4-0 for a fourth straight season. The Seminoles will put their perfect record on the line next week when they return home to face Miami,
“My mindset is, when the ball is in the air, it’s mine,” Hunter said. “I just had to go and get it.”
Midway through the third quarter, there wasn’t much indication that Hunter would even be in position for late-game heroics.
The Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 ACC) took a 14-10 lead into halftime then gained some separation thanks to an Everett Golson touchdown pass and a 25-yard field goal from Roberto Aguayo that made it 24-10.
Wake Forest (2-3, 0-3 ACC), though, stayed within arm’s reach and, after a pair of fourth-quarter field goals and two defensive stops, had both the ball and the chance to give the Seminoles a scare.
Thanks to three completions and a personal foul penalty, Wake reached FSU’s 20-yard line with 21 seconds to play before Hunter finally allowed the Seminoles to exhale.
FSU spent the night beleaguered by penalties, drawing 10 flags for a total of 100 yards.
“Too many silly penalties on defense,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Interference, facemask. Some crazy things.”
Still, Fisher was in no mood to apologize for a win, especially with Cook, Smith and Andrews in street clothes. (Second-team running back Mario Pender also missed the game due to a lung ailment.)
Cook dazzled from his very first carry, rushing up the middle and bouncing off of Wake defenders for a 94-yard touchdown run that was the third-longest in school history.
But he touched the ball just twice more and, after an eight-yard reception, limped off the field and did not return.
Fisher said after the game that Cook has a hamstring injury and is day-to-day. He finished with 104 total yards (94 rushing, eight receiving) and a score.
Meanwhile Smith, FSU’s most experienced linebacker, played just one series before leaving the game with a right leg injury. And just a few moments later, starting safety Nate Andrews injured his left knee while making a tackle on Wake tight end Cam Serigne.
Andrews is scheduled to have an MRI to determine his injury.
“That’s three key guys,” Fisher said. “But you know what? Next guy up. That’s life. That’s ball. The next guy has got to step up and play.”
With injuries piling up FSU saw a number of players take advantage of increased opportunities.
Johnathan Vickers, a Quincy, Fla., native who played at Tallahassee’s North Florida Christian School, took over at running back and carried 10 times for 33 yards.
His first career rushing touchdown – a tough, 9-yard run up the middle – extended the Seminoles’ lead to 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
“It was exciting,” Vickers said. “I was just doing what I’ve got to do – do the little things and the big plays will come. You’re not really worried about touchdowns, you’re trying to make plays.”
Reggie Northrup and Ro’Derrick Hoskins, who entered the game tied for the team lead in tackles, bore the brunt of Smith’s absence. They finished with 10 and eight tackles, respectively, with Northrup also posting five quarterback hurries.
And freshman safety Derwin James got his first extended action, finishing with six tackles while also harassing Wake QB Kendall Hinton as an edge rusher.
“Derwin got in there and did a nice job,” Fisher said.
FSU’s passing game bounced back from an uneven showing in its last outing – and a few early hiccups on Saturday.
Quarterback Everett Golson finished 20 of 31 for 202 yards and a touchdown. More encouraging than Golson’s stats, though, was his willingness to let loose on a few deep balls. He connected on a 51-yard completion to Bobo Wilson midway through the third quarter and also connected with Travis Rudolph to convert a pair of third-and-longs.
Otherwise, limited time of possession made it difficult for the Seminoles to get much rhythm offensively. Wake Forest possessed the ball for more than 35 minutes and ran 79 plays to FSU’s 52.
The Demon Deacons actually outgained FSU, 357-329, but the Seminoles averaged nearly two more yards per play (6.3-4.5)
“We had some nice third-down throws,” Fisher said. “He hit some nice throws and we made some nice plays in the game. We just didn’t get the ball (much).”