Leon Washington knelt to pray. Teammates sprinted toward him in the left corner of the north end zone. Backup offensive lineman Ron Lunford dropped to his knees.
No. 13 Florida State had just defeated North Carolina State, 50-44, in two overtimes last night, giving the Seminoles their most emotional victory in recent seasons. The game in Tallahassee, Fla., resembled a roller-coaster ride gone crazy, full of enough ups and downs to make players from both teams nauseated.
"If I was the kind of guy that would cry, I'd be crying right now," said Florida State linebacker Allen Augustin, a senior who had just played his last game in Doak Campbell Stadium.
With the victory, Florida State won its 11th Atlantic Coast Conference title in 12 seasons in the league and ensured a berth in a Bowl Championship Series game.
The sigh of relief from Florida State players, coaches and administrators - not to mention the 83,854 fans who packed the stadium - probably could have been heard across the Florida Panhandle.
"Never has a game been as meaningful to us in the conference," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.
"When we won conferences before, it didn't seem like it meant anything."
Bowden and his players withstood a masterful performance by Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers, who ran for a score, threw four touchdown passes and passed for 422 yards through the air.
When the teams entered overtime, it looked as if N.C. State clearly held the edge. The Wolfpack (7-4, 4-3) had Rivers, a senior who owns a slew of ACC passing records.
The Seminoles (9-2, 7-1), on the other hand, would lean on inconsistent junior Chris Rix, who had an interception returned for a touchdown early in the game. Bowden said he considered pulling Rix out of the game at halftime in favor of backup quarterback Fabian Walker.
Just as important, the Wolfpack held all the momentum. With five seconds remaining in regulation, Seminoles kicker Xavier Beitia attempted a 32-yard field goal that would have won the game, but 328-pound defensive tackle Derek Morris blocked the kick.
"Our kids fought and fought and fought," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said.
But Rix led off the first overtime by completing 20-yard pass to Craphonso Thorpe. Three plays later, on third-and-goal from the 5, Rix connected with Thorpe again on a slant.
After Rivers followed by hitting Tramain Hall on a 7-yard touchdown pass, the Wolfpack threatened again.
Facing fourth-and-one from the Florida State 16, Amato elected to go for the first down instead of a field-goal try by Adam Kiker.
Augustin, who nearly did not play because of a sprained left ankle, swatted down the fourth-down pass that was intended for receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
Amato, a former longtime assistant at Florida State, said he'd pass up the field goal again.
"I will never play not to lose," Amato said. "We were going to be the aggressors. So be it."
"We were thinking, `kick it,' but then decided, `what the heck,' " said Rivers. "If we had one play to run the rest of our lives, it would be that play."
"I guess I disrupted him enough that he lost his concentration," said Augustin, a former walk-on who won the starting middle linebacker position last season midway through his junior year.
Georgia Tech 41, North Carolina 24: P.J. Daniels ran for a career-high 240 yards - 155 in an overpowering second half - and the Yellow Jackets (6-4, 4-3) became bowl eligible by beating the visiting Tar Heels (2-9, 1-6).
North Carolina, which has the worst defense in the ACC, allowed more than 200 yards rushing for the seventh time this season. The lowest total it has given up is 164 in a victory over East Carolina on Oct. 11.
Connecticut 51, Wake Forest 17: Cornell Brockington rushed for four touchdowns and Dan Orlovsky threw for two scores to lift the visiting Huskies (9-3) over the Demon Deacons (5-6) for their fifth straight victory.
Connecticut was 0-4 against teams from North Carolina coming into the game, losing, 31-24, to North Carolina State last month on an interception return for a touchdown with five seconds left.
Clemson 40, Duke 7: Charlie Whitehurst was 27-for-40 for 331 yards and Derrick Hamilton had six catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers (7-4, 5-3) held the visiting Blue Devils (3-8, 1-6) to 174 yards.
Clemson held the ACC's leading rusher, Chris Douglas, to 62 yards. Douglas had run for at least 100 yards in his previous three games.
The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing Company newspaper. The Associated Press contributed to this article.