WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- It took Adrian McPherson awhile to get going, but the sophomore eventually rewarded coach Bobby Bowden's faith in him.
Replacing Chris Rix, McPherson sparked Florida State with a pair of touchdown passes in the second quarter as the 20th-ranked Seminoles rallied from an early 14-point deficit to post a 34-21 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over Wake Forest.
"He showed a lot of composure," Bowden said. "You can't win a Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football without having something."
The Seminoles (6-3, 5-0) rebounded from last week's 34-24 loss to Notre Dame and took advantage of North Carolina State's loss to Georgia Tech to move into sole possession of first place in the ACC.
Florida State, which snapped a two-game losing streak, is seeking its 10th ACC title in 11 years. Despite three non-conference losses, the Seminoles are the only unbeaten team in conference play.
Florida State improved to 18-2-1 all-time against Wake Forest, including an 11-0 mark as conference rivals, and avoided its first three-game losing streak since 1983.
"I always try to stay calm," McPherson said. "I have the best line in the country and my job is pretty easy. All I had to do was find the open receiver."
Florida State took the lead for good, 24-21, on Nick Maddox's three-yard TD run with 10:50 to go in the third period. Maddox, who rushed for 122 yards on 19 carries, clinched the win with a 34-yard TD run with 1:58 to play.
"On focus is to win the ACC," said Maddox, who recorded his first career 100-yard game. "We needed a win and this one was huge."
Greg Jones, held to 34 yards against Notre Dame, added 82 yards on just eight carries before leaving in the third quarter with a sprained right knee.
Early on, however, the decision to start McPherson appeared to backfire as Wake Forest (5-5, 3-4) opened a 14-0 lead on TD runs of three yards by Ovie Mughelli and 13 yards by Chris Barclay.
"We had problems with Wake Forest because you can't copy their offense in practice," Bowden said.
But Florida State settled down on defense after allowing 228 yards in the first quarter. The Demon Deacons also hurt themselves on special teams with three missed field goals, including a 41-yard attempt by Matt Wisnosky that would have tied the game with under nine minutes left.
"We didn't get the push we needed in the second half," Wake Forest copach Jim Grobe said. "Florida State played great defensively. I think they crowded the line of scrimmage a little bit and we needed to throw the ball a little bit better."
Florida State came alive in the second quarter, closing to 14-7 on McPherson's 18-yard TD pass to Talmam Gardner with 12:40 left in the half.
Wake Forest answered on James MacPherson's 12-yard TD strike to Jason Anderson with 5:50 remaining, but the Seminoles scored 10 points in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the half to pull within 24-21.
Xavier Beitia kicked a 31-yard field goal and McPherson tossed a nine-yard TD strike to Anquan Boldin to give the Seminoles momentum heading into the second half.
"He (McPherson) kept us in the game," Maddox said. "He did a terrific job facing adversity. He was very commanding in the huddle, reaffirming everybody that we were doing well. He showed a lot of maturity tonight."
Things unraveled for Wake Forest in the fourth quarter as Fabian Davis fumbled a punt at midfield with 6:59 left, leading to Beitia's 28-yard field goal with 3:16 to go.
Tarance Williams rushed for 149 yards on 19 carries for Wake Forest, but MacPherson completed just 8-of-17 passes for 89 yards.
"This game was more frustrating than the one last year (against Florida State) because we actually had a chance to beat then this year," Wake Forest nose tackle Montique Sharpe said.
The Demons Decons, who had won three of their previous four games, need to win their remaining two contests against Navy and Maryland to become bowl eligible.