Mickey Andrews was dissecting another game of big plays allowed by his defense, and the key ones it made, when he excused himself from his postgame news conference. Christian Ponder had caught his eye, and Florida State's defensive coordinator had something to say to the starting quarterback.
Andrews wanted Ponder, who suffered bruised ribs in the in the first quarter but stuck it out, to know what his effort meant to the team.
"What a warrior," Andrews told the media. "I told our guys after the game, you don't want anybody to be hurt. But you'd like sometime for each one of those guys to experience the kind of pain he was, and have enough fortitude, want-to and desire to see it through.
"They could have taken him out. I don't know if he would have stayed out. That's the kind of guy of he is. If we would get everybody playing with that kind of determination, we might end up being a pretty good team before it's over."
Ponder injured his ribs when he was tackled by North Carolina State DT Alan-Michael Cash on a 3-yard carry on FSU's first touchdown drive. Ponder went on to complete 26 of 40 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown and added 29 yards rushing despite the rib injury.
"After that I stopped thinking and adrenaline kicked in a little bit, I started playing better," Ponder said. "I think they knew that, and I think they played even harder. So did the rest of the guys."
Teammates such as C Ryan McMahon knew immediately that Ponder was hurting. The junior said that motivated the group.
"We knew we had to play harder and keep him from getting hit again," McMahon said. "We told him, we'll give you time. He didn't complain about being hurt or anything. We trusted him, and he trusted us."
A game-changing play
It's the kind of play that wins games.
And it came from a kid who desperately needed to make one.
Sophomore Jarmon Fortson caught four passes Saturday, but the Florida State receiver's biggest contribution came on a pass he didn't catch.
With the game tied at 28 early in the third quarter, Ponder threw an inside screen pass intended for Fortson.
The ball was tipped at the line, however, and was intercepted by North Carolina State DT Natanu Mageo at the FSU 25-yard line.
As Mageo lumbered toward the end zone, Fortson came up from behind and began to slowly wrestle him to the ground. A few moments later, he wrestled the ball out.
"My first thought was just get the ball back," Fortson said. "(Mageo) didn't know what he was doing with the ball, so I just tried to get my hand in there and rip it out."
After what seemed like a slow-motion tackle, the ball popped free.
"I had my hand in there for about 5 or 10 seconds," Fortson said with a smile. "And fortunately it came out when he was falling."
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