Wolfpack offense sputters in loss at Florida State

NC State coach Dave Doeren reacts to a penalty during the first half of the Wolfpack’s loss at Florida State. (Mark Wallheiser / AP Photo)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Alex Hornibrook did more than just fill in as Florida State’s starter. He had a career night and gave the Seminoles a much-needed victory.

Hornibrook, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin, made his first start at Florida State and threw for a career-high 316 yards, tossing three touchdown passes in the Seminoles’ 31-13 win over NC State on Saturday night.

“I was just proud of the way the team finished today,” Hornibrook said. “And we were able to separate a little bit and not be a one-possession game at the end.”

Hornibrook was often pressured and was sacked eight times. But he completed 29 of 40 passes and had two touchdown passes to Tamorrion Terry and another to Ontaria Wilson for Florida State (3-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). He improves to 27-6 as a starter.

James Blackman suffered a knee injury in last week’s win over Louisville and “tweaked” it again on Friday in practice, coach Willie Taggart said.

“We wanted to see how he’d go through warmups and everything, see how it felt,” Taggart said. “Thought it would be best that we didn’t put him in there.”

Hornibrook helped the Seminoles’ offense put together plenty of scoring drives, helping them build a 17-6 halftime lead that they would not relinquish. Florida State had let fourth-quarter leads slip away against Boise State and Virginia but have now finished off Louisville and NC State (3-2, 0-1) on consecutive weeks.

The Seminoles won back-to-back ACC games for the first time since Nov. 2016.

“Our guys are improving each and every week,” Taggart said. “To have back-to-back ACC wins at home is big for our football team and big for where we’re trying to go and get our program back to where we want to be.”

NC State had more sacks (eight) than points (six) through three quarters. Defensive tackle Darrell Murchison had 3.5 sacks in three quarters.

But the Wolfpack weren’t very effective on offense. They fumbled twice, turned it over on downs twice and punted six times.

“Weird feeling after this game,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said. “I’m really proud of the way our defensive kids battled. We struggled offensively in a lot of ways.”

Ricky Person Jr. was carted off with 13:28 left in the third quarter. The sophomore tailback had his left leg in an air cast. X-rays were negative, a school spokesperson said.

Bailey Hockman, who transferred from Florida State to a junior college in August 2018 and eventually signed with NC State, played the majority of the game. He completed 21 of 40 passes for 208 yards and had a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Emeka Emezie for the Wolfpack.

“Wish we could have won,” Hockman said. “I think I played well, did the best I can. Just got to get it done. Got to execute.”

Cam Akers had 17 carries for 83 yards but nearly half of them came on a 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Still, Florida State surpassed the 30-point mark for the fourth time in five games.

The Takeaway

NC State: The Wolfpack managed just 88 rushing yards, averaging 3.1 yards per carry, and were just 4 of 16 on third downs.

Florida State: The Seminoles held an 11-point halftime lead and didn’t allow an opponent to rally in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

Up Next

NC State has an open week. The Wolfpack host Syracuse on Oct. 10.

Florida State has an open week. The Seminoles travel to No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 12.