KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) - Florida State averted possible disaster by one yard.
Linebackers Kendyll Pope and Jerel Hudson stopped quarterback Seneca Wallace at the 1-yard line on the final play of the game as the fourth-ranked Seminoles held on for a 38-31 victory over Iowa State in the Eddie Robinson Classic.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden passed Bear Bryant and moved into sole possession of second place on the all-time Division I-A wins list with his 324th - but not before the Seminoles nearly squandered a pair of 24-point leads.
"The way that we were playing first half, I thought, man, this might be our year," Bowden said. "Then second half, we were just the opposite. We couldn't stop them. We went out there and could not do what we wanted to save our life."
The Cyclones, who have dropped 30 straight games against ranked opponents, started the final drive on their 35 with 2:32 left.
Wallace put Iowa State in position to force overtime by scrambling for 20 yards to the 1 with four seconds left.
Iowa State coach Dan McCarney elected to have Wallace attempt an option run around right end, but he was snuffed out by Pope and Hudson.
"I wanted to force Wallace back inside to (Michael) Boulware and we combined to make the tackle," Pope said. "My hat goes off to Seneca and the whole (Iowa State) team."
Wallace, who completed 22-of-33 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns, earned raves from the Seminoles.
"We knew coming in we were going to get tested," Pope said. "Seneca gave us a lot of problems. He is one of those quarterbacks like Michael Vick who could scramble, run and pass."
Coming off its first four-loss season in 15 years, Florida State believes it can contend again for a national title. But Bowden has to be concerned about a defense that gave up four long drives in the second half that resulted in 17 points.
"(Wallace) did everything we expected him to do," Bowden said. "This team did not ever give up and they would just not allow us to take this game in the second half."
After Iowa State closed to 31-24 on Wallace's one-yard run 1:59 into the final period, Florida State appeared to regain control.
The Seminoles put together an 11-play, 80-yard drive, taking a 38-24 lead on Chris Rix's 31-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin with 8:12 to play.
But the Cyclones came right back, closing within seven points on Wallace's 40-yard pass to Jamaul Montgomery with 5:26 to play.
"We made a lot of mistakes tonight, but I'm really proud of the comeback we made," McCarney said. "I think we really grew up in the second half. I saw my team mature a lot."
A 15-yard late hit penalty forced the Seminoles to give up the ball after one first down and Wallace went back to work, sending the partisan Iowa State crowd at Arrowhead Stadium into a frenzy.
"It felt like a home game for ISU," Rix said. "Their fans did a great job in supporting them the entire game."
Touted by his school as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, Wallace kept alive the last drive with three third-down completions, including an 18-yarder to Montgomery that gave the Cyclones a first down at the Florida State 21 with 21 seconds left.
With Iowa State out of timeouts, Wallace was flushed out of the pocket on the next play but eluded tacklers and raced down the right sideline before being forced out of bounds just shy of the goal line.
"I feel bad for our team, but we won't accept losing," McCarney said. "We made a lot of mistakes as coaches and players and we have a lot to work on."
While Bowden cannot be happy with the way his club finished the game, the Seminoles came out fired up, racing to a 24-0 lead one play into the second quarter.
Florida State scored on the game's first possession, then used an interception return for a touchdown, a blocked punt and a fumbled kickoff to score 17 points in less than seven minutes.
After Nick Maddox opened the scoring with a six-yard run, Alonzo Jackson returned an interception 48 yards to make it 14-0 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.
Iowa State had a chance to get on the board, but B.J. Ward blocked Tony Yelk's 50-yard field goal attempt. The Seminoles took a 17-0 lead on Xavier Beitia's 35-yard field goal.
Things got worse for Iowa State as Ward forced Montgomery to fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Seminoles took over on the 11 and needed just three plays to go up 24-0 on Rix's three-yard TD toss to Boldin on the opening play of the second period.
Rix completed 17-of-25 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while Greg Jones paced the Seminoles on the ground with 113 yards on 22 carries.
But Florida State seemed to let up with the big lead. Hiawatha Rutland's 36-yard TD run and Wallace's 29-yard scoring strike to Kyle Knock enabled the Cyclones to close to 31-14 at halftime.
Rutland rushed for 93 yards on 17 carries.
Iowa State's offense dominated the second half, although the Cyclones had to settle for Adam Benike's 33-yard field goal with 1:16 left in the third period following a 10-minute possession.
However, Atif Austin's 39-yard interception return set up Wallace's one-yard run that made it 31-24 early in the final period and set the stage for the frantic finish.