As a Florida State fan, I wanted to believe.
I really wanted to believe the Seminoles were back to being a national contender.
An early season test against Clemson was passed with flying colors as the 'Noles dominated one of their hyped matchups in recent years.
This week the Seminoles faced another team that has been a thorn in their side—the NC State Wolfpack. Ever since the days of Philip Rivers and Chuck Amato, NC State has found a way to upend the hopes and dreams of 'Nole Nation.
The trend continued Saturday night as FSU traveled to Raleigh in what should have been an easy win. By halftime, this looked to be the case despite the FSU offense sputtering to a pedestrian (by their standards) 16 first half points.
The good news was that FSU's defense had done its part to hold NC State scoreless for the first 30 minutes.
Perhaps the offense would kick into high gear with some much-needed halftime talk?
After all, great teams make adjustments after having a bad half. They come back stronger.
Instead, it was the Wolfpack who came out to show their pride.
In the second half, the Wolfpack appeared to be an entirely different team. They were able to move the ball on offense and the defense forced a costly interception from Manuel, keeping the Seminoles offense out of the end zone.
Yet the Seminoles still seemed to be under control of the game as time ticked away with NC State still trailing. Late in the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack failed to convert a fourth-down conversion, which set up the Seminoles to run out the clock.
The Wolfpack did have their three timeouts, but with only a few minutes remaining, it was FSU's game to lose.
And lose they did.
One of the most prolific offenses in the nation decided to play it extremely safe while in hostile territory, calling conservative run plays to force NC State to use their timeouts.
I understand Jimbo Fisher wanted to trust his defense, but not being the least bit aggressive in that situation was shocking. After an FSU punt, the Wolfpack still had well over two minutes to score the game-winning touchdown.
On the road—against a team that seemingly always finds a way to ruin any your national title hopes—and you give it another chance to win?
I'm not saying the 'Noles needed to start chucking the ball down field, but there are plenty of safe plays that would've given the team a chance to cross the first down marker and close out the game right then and there.
Instead, the Wolfpack offense received a chance at redemption and marched the ball down the field to score the game-winning touchdown with only seconds remaining.
It was a scene Seminole fans are all too familiar with.
Every year, when the Seminoles seem to get some momentum toward title contention, they find a way to lose a game like this one. A national title contender doesn't lay an egg like FSU did against a conference rival.
The game against NC State should've been another blowout win on the FSU schedule. This was the year for the team to not only retake control of the ACC with the usual powerhouses stumbling, it was the year for the 'Noles to finally climb back into the national title picture.
Hope isn't entirely lost for the team this year, as FSU is still ranked in the Top 15 in the polls, and it's always possible for a number of teams to falter as the season goes along.
An ACC title is also still possible, but that's nothing more than a second-place ribbon for a team that appeared to be on its way to the BCS National Championship Game.
Coach Fisher and the Seminoles are going to need to find a way to avoid this kind of loss that seems to haunt them every season.
Championship contenders have off-games, but they still find a way to win. If the Seminoles ever want to be the powerhouse they once were, they too will need to find a way to win games like this one.
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