WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The 80-year-old embattled coach was sitting in a golf cart and upbeat moments after his redshirt freshman quarterback kept their bowl hopes alive.
Not far away, the opposing team's redshirt senior quarterback was overcome with emotion.
A good day for Bobby Bowden, EJ Manuel and Florida State meant a tearful final home game and bowl elimination for Riley Skinner and Wake Forest Saturday, with the Seminoles' 41-28 victory perhaps marking a change in the Atlantic Coast Conference's quarterback hierarchy.
Manuel, the highly touted recruit out of Virginia Beach, Va., threw for a touchdown and ran for another in his first career start. Jermaine Thomas helped out by rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown as the Seminoles (5-5, 3-4) moved closer to extending their nation-best 27-year bowl streak.
With his future uncertain, Bowden had to enjoy watching Manuel fill in capably for the injured Christian Ponder -- and hear Seminoles fans chant Bowden's name in the closing minutes.
"Manuel passed the test," Bowden said. "You still never know the answer until they get into a contest. I thought from the first play on, he showed a lot of poise."
Manuel completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards and an interception, outplaying Skinner as the Demon Deacons (4-7, 2-5) fell behind 31-7 in the second quarter. Wake's fifth straight loss ending a school-record streak of three straight bowl games.
The good times at Wake began in Skinner's freshman year. And after struggling with his accuracy and throwing two interceptions, Skinner put his face in his hands and started crying after the game.
"It's just crazy to think about," Skinner said, eyes red and sniffling. "It's been 4 1/2 years and I never thought it would come to an end like this."
Wake Forest got within 31-21 early in the third quarter on Kevin Harris' 12-yard touchdown run from the wildcat formation. But the Demon Deacons got no closer as they struggled to contain the run game.
Thomas became Florida State's first back since 2002 to go over 100 yards three straight games. It was part of a new-look offense that included more pitches, option play and quarterback runs to take advantage of Manuel's skills.
"All of the coaches supported me, the O-line, the running backs, the defense," said Manuel, pressed into duty when Ponder suffered a season-ending shoulder injury last week. "Christian -- that meant a lot to me -- him supporting me."
Manuel, Ty Jones and Thomas each had touchdown runs and Greg Reid a 68-yard punt return for a score to give Florida State a 31-14 halftime lead against Wake's beleaguered defense.
Free safety Josh Bush (illness) didn't dress, then cornerback Brandon Ghee was lost to a concussion. Strong safety Cyhl Quarles left with a concussion, too, after his helmet was popped off on a vicious hit from Jarmon Fortson on Manuel's lone interception.
Manuel's 7-yard touchdown pass to Fortson made it 41-21 early in the fourth quarter.
Skinner was off most for the day, overthrowing receivers despite facing the ACC's worst defense that had given up 40 or more points in three of the past four games. Kendall Smith picked him off in the first half, setting up a short field and a Florida State's third touchdown.
Skinner was intercepted again in the end zone by Ochuko Jenije midway through the fourth quarter. The record-setting QB finished 25 of 40 for 227 yards, including a 4-yard TD pass to Chris Givens late in the fourth quarter. It was Skinner's 21st TD of the season, tying the school record.
Josh Adams rushed for two first-half TDs in a somber day for 22 Wake seniors.
"Certainly our seniors are disappointed because they had a little bit to live up to after last three years," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.
Wake Forest had beaten Florida State three straight times by allowing 24 combined points, a number the Seminoles eclipsed Saturday with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
Now Florida State can qualify for a bowl if its freshman QB can lead another victory next week over Maryland.
"It's doggone impressive," Bowden said. "That's a freshman."
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