Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston passed for 277 yards and three scores in the first two quarters before sitting most of the second half. (Reuters)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Florida State legend returned to town Saturday to watch another legend in the making.
And neither disappointed.
Former Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, who spent 34 years at Florida State and led the Seminoles to two national titles (1993, 1999), was honored during an emotional pregame ceremony attended by nearly 400 of his former players.
Then Bowden had a front-row seat to watch Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston and No. 3 Florida State pick apart North Carolina State, 49-17.
Winston passed for 277 yards and three first-half touchdowns as Florida State bolted to a 42-0 halftime lead, thanks to tying a school-record 35 points in the first quarter, undoubtedly a smile to the 83-year-old former coach's face.
"I sure did miss everybody," said Bowden, the NCAA's all-time leader with 389 victories, as he stood with a microphone at midfield and spoke to the crowd of 80,389.
The throng gave Bowden a standing ovation and watched him hoist the Seminoles' ceremonial spear at the 50-yard line before spiking it into the ground to kick off the game.
Less than a half hour later, Florida State (7-0 overall, 5-0 in the ACC) honored the man who built the Seminoles into a national powerhouse by putting a Bowden-like whipping on the Wolfpack.
It was reminiscent of the blowout wins Bowden and the program became known for during their heyday in the late 1980s and throughout the '90s.
To add to the motivation, Florida State was still seething after last season's stunning 17-16 loss to N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. The Seminoles came in unbeaten, ranked No. 3 and led, 16-0, at halftime before losing, 17-16, and seeing their national title hopes derailed.
The result was much different this time. And coach Jimbo Fisher, who took over for Bowden after he coached his final game at the end of the 2009 season, made sure of that.
"Great win in front of the greatest football coach of all-time," Fisher said of Bowden. "Pain is preparation, and we still felt that pain (of last year's loss).
"I told the guys if you didn't want that pain again, have a bad week of practice. They didn't. It was a great week of practice, we got the win and that pain (is now gone)."
In that first-quarter explosion by Florida State, the Wolfpack and starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell, playing for the first time since he sustained a broken left foot in Week 1, went the other direction.
N.C. State managed only 32 yards on its first five possessions, including two punts and two turnovers, as the game got out of hand quickly.
Coming off a career-high 444 yards passing and five touchdowns in last week's win at then-No. 3 Clemson, Winston threw touchdown passes of 39, 14 and 42 yards to Kelvin Benjamin, Nick O'Leary and Rashad Greene, respectively, before sitting most of the second half to rest for the Seminoles' showdown next Saturday against No. 7 Miami.
Devonta Freeman added two rushing scores during that first-half onslaught and Karlos Williams had one, while the Terrance Brooks and Ronald Darby intercepted passes by Mitchell.
N.C. State (3-4, 0-4) was outgained, 371-85, in the first half and the Wolfpack crossed into Florida State territory only once, marking the third straight impressive performance by the Seminole defense, which shut out then-No. 25 Maryland three weeks ago, 63-0, before dismantling Clemson, 51-14.
"It was crazy; as fast as we could get (N.C. State) off the field, we'd have to go back on it," junior nose guard Timmy Jernigan said before adding with a laugh: "It was like, 'Man, Jameis ... incomplete a pass or something."
Winston, the second-most efficient passer in the nation, finished 17-for-26 for 312 yards, while Freeman led Florida State's running backs with 12 carries for 92 yards and two scores, and Williams added 86 yards on 13 rushes and one touchdown.
Greene paced the Seminoles in receiving for the second straight game with eight catches for 137 yards and found the end zone once, while Benjamin contributed four catches for 89 yards and a score.
Florida State's defense, which sacked Mitchell four times and was led by eight tackles by E.J. Levenberry, did the rest.
Mitchell struggled mightily, finishing 17-of-33 for only 128 yards and two interceptions.
Had the Wiolfpack gotten some of the effectiveness that running back Shadrach Thornton showed in the second half, finishing with a game-high 173 yards on 23 carries and both of N.C. State's touchdowns, it might have been a different game.
Then again, maybe not.
"That's a good football team," said first-year N.C. State coach Dave Doren, whose team dropped to 3-4, 0-4. "Yeah, (they can win it all). I said to Coach Fisher afterward, 'Go win the whole thing.'
"He's got a quarterback playing at a high level, their offensive line is protecting him, their receivers make plays, they have good backs, their defense is playing at a high level. They played well in all phases of the game. We need to aspire to play like that."
Other than a 31-yard touchdown run by backup Kermit Whitfield with two minutes left in the game, Florida State was held scoreless in the second half.
That's something Doren says his team will hang his hat on as it prepares to face in-state rival North Carolina next week.
"I challenged our guys to win the second half," Doren said. "We did some better things on offense, we had some explosive plays. It was obviously a much better performance (the rest of the game compared) to the first quarter."
Fisher, meanwhile, was glad the week of "clutter" -- as he called the distractions earlier in the week with Florida State debuting No. 2 in the first BCS poll and Bowden returning -- was over.
But he also wouldn't trade a week spent honoring the greatest coach in college football history, and his mentor, for anything.
"I love the guy," said Fisher, who called Bowden his "hero" over and over again this week. "I just wanted to pay my respects."
NOTES: N.C. State trails the all-time series, 23-11, following the loss, but it had won two of the last three meetings entering Saturday. ... FSU K Roberto Aguayo still has not missed a kick this season, breaking the school record by going 58-for-58 between PATs and field goals, including 7-for-7 on Saturday. ... N.C. State will look to regroup as it prepares for its annual rivalry game against North Carolina next weekend in Raleigh.