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    10th Anniversary: Carter-Finley's Greatest Game

    Editor's note: This story was originally published in Nov. 25, 2006, in the NC State-East Carolina game program.




    RALEIGH The greatest game ever played in Carter-Finley Stadium sure didn’t start out that way for NC State.


    On the first offensive play of that Sept. 12, 1998 contest, Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke hit wide receiver Peter Warrick on a post pattern for a 74-yard touchdown pass, and like so many other games that the Seminoles played in their first decade in the ACC, the rout seemed to be on while fans were still filing into their seats.


    “On the sidelines, we were thinking Wow, here we go again,’” says NC State All-America wide receiver Torry Holt.


    But something unbelievable happened after that: an all-around effort by the Wolfpack offense, defense and special teams rattled the Seminoles. State’s defense intercepted six of Weinke’s passes and dramatically lowered the 51-point scoring average the Seminoles had established against State since joining the ACC in 1992.


    The offense, just as it had the year before, moved the ball consistently throughout the day, confounding the FSU defense by putting Holt into constant motion. And the incomparable Holt made a couple of big-time plays, including a 68-yard punt return for the go-ahead touchdown and a 63-yard touchdown pass from Jamie Barnette that all but sealed the 24-7 victory.


    It is remembered as one of the greatest upsets in the history of ACC football, a victory that induced a stunned celebration by the 50,800 fans at the game. Both goal posts came down and were eventually carried out of the stadium and onto Hillsborough Street.


    “I’ve always said the thing about that game was that it was a total, total team effort and team win,” says Holt, now a star wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams. “The scheme of the defense in confusing Weinke and getting those six interceptions. We were coming out offensively and moving the football the way we knew we could and putting up some points and keeping their offense off the field. We knew it was going to come down at some point that we were going to have to make a play on offense, or defense, or on special teams.


    “We were able to get that punt return... my teammates did a great job of blocking that up and allowing me to get that touchdown. I have always said that was a total, total team effort.”


    Over the summer, NC State fans voted the upset win as the greatest game played in the 40-year history of Carter-Finley Stadium, in an on-line poll on It’s a game that ranks pretty high on Holt’s list as well, even after his record-breaking professional career that includes two trips to the Super Bowl and a championship ring.


    “I would say that Super Bowl game is No. 1 and the Florida State game when I was at NC State goes at No. 2,” says Holt, who as a rookie caught seven passes for 109 yards and one touchdown in the Rams’ 23-16 victory over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXIV. “But it could go either way really. I guess since the Super Bowl is the ultimate game in football, I guess I have to go with that one as No. 1.


    “That Florida State win for us, as a university and a football program, really gave us the confidence that we could beat Florida State at any time, in Raleigh or in Tallahassee.”


    Starting with that game, the Wolfpack has won five of the last nine games against the Seminoles, including two at Doak-Campbell Stadium.


    State’s confidence actually began to rise the year before in Tallahassee, when the amazing Holt had an ACC-record five touchdown catches against the Seminoles. It didn’t make that much of an impact on the game, in which the Seminoles jumped out to a 27-0 in the first half and held on for a 48-35 victory.


    Leading into the 1998 game, FSU sophomore cornerback Tay Cody said he didn’t have much respect for Holt as a receiver. Maybe it had something to do with Holt’s limited productivity (three catches for 72 yards) in the Wolfpack’s season-opening win over Ohio, a game in which the Wolfpack needed a blocked punt with less than two minutes to play to pull out a victory.


    “I think we kind of had Florida State set up,” then NC State coach Mike O’Cain says. “We may have had them in the right frame of mind.”


    Holt, however, got into his own frame of mind after reading clippings of Cody’s comments. They were hard to miss, as coaches had plastered copies in the team meeting room, the dressing room and in Holt’s locker.


    The bottom line was, O’Cain knew that Holt was a major weapon, one that the Seminoles would have to respect.


    “We had some other good players at that time, but Torry was the one player that we felt like we could match up with anybody they had and we had a chance of winning,” says O’Cain, who is now an assistant coach at Virginia Tech. “The other guys, if we matched up on them one-on-one with their secondary, we weren’t going to win that contest. They were better than we were, they were more athletic than we were. But Torry was one guy we could match up with anybody.


    “The year before, we did a really good job of moving him around, got him matched up against a linebacker a couple of times. Florida State, the year we beat them, did a better job of changing some coverages. We didn’t get the ball in Torry’s hands as much as we liked. We were still able to get him the ball.”


    Holt’s nine catches for 135 yards certainly left a lasting memory, especially on Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.


    “Any time I think of those games back then against them, his is the first name that pops up,” Bowden says. “He just showed that he was a super football player.”


    But, as Holt said, it was not a singular effort on that day. On the Wolfpack’s first offensive drive, it managed to get in position for a Scott Earwood field-goal attempt. He missed the 44-yard try, but the Wolfpack discovered that it could move the ball on the vaunted Seminole defense.


    On FSU’s second possession, Weinke hit Laveranues Coles on a 62-yard pass in which he was knocked out of bounds at the Wolfpack 11-yard line, putting his team in good position to go up 14-0. But three plays later, Wolfpack cornerback Lloyd Harrison made a diving interception, the first of his team’s half-dozen picks of Weinke on the day, at the goal line. Unfortunately for Barnette and the offense, Harrison landed on the 1-yard line, putting the Wolfpack offense in a deep, deep hole.


    But Barnette calmly led the Wolfpack down the field, capping off a 99-yard touchdown drive with a 31-yard scoring pass to Eric Leak, who benefited from the Seminoles’ attention to Holt.


    The defense stopped the Seminoles on the next drive, forcing a punt. Holt caught the ball despite being hit early by a Florida State defender, bounced off, and cut towards the sidelines, where he was met by a host of teammates to block for his race to the end zone.


    “What I remember most is that initial hit and being able to keep my balance,” Holt says.


    Clearly, Holt wasn’t the only hero on that day. Leak not only caught the first touchdown pass, he was one of Holt’s blockers on the punt return, along with Adrian Wilson. Harrison had two of the Wolfpack’s interceptions and little-used red-shirt freshman Anthony Cason also had two in only 10 plays on the field.


    Rashad Spikes and Ray Robinson helped the Wolfpack establish a running game, with Spikes collecting 63 yards on 22 carries and Robinson getting 19 yards on eight carries. The Seminoles rolled up 439 yards in total offense, but Weinke, a year prior to winning the Heisman Trophy, had the worst day of his career: 9-for-32 for 285 yards.


    “We felt like if we could get in some different looks and keep [Weinke] off balance, then that was the best chance we had and we did,” O’Cain says. “The key to beating Florida State, you are not going to out-score them, you have to stop them. You have to play good defense.


    “That is what we did that day.”


    Tim Peeler is managing editor of He can be reached at



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