The Wolfpack upset the third-ranked Seminoles in Raleigh, N.C., last year and had won the last four meetings when Florida State was ranked. But they committed three first-quarter turnovers on top of going three-and-out twice in the first 15 minutes.
"Obviously, really disappointed in the start of the game," N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. "We put our defense in the opposite position that we wanted to with the turnovers and they did a good job maximizing those opportunities with the short fields and that was the opposite of what we wanted to do.
"They are a good football team; we made it easier than we needed to early on."
Doeren was so impressed he told Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner to, "go win the whole ... thing" as they left the field.
Winston completed 16-of-26 passes for 292 yards with one interception and left the game after the opening series of the second half. The effort was the latest dazzling performance put on by the Heisman Trophy candidate.
N.C. State (3-4, 0-4) had quarterback Brandon Mitchell back for the first time since breaking his foot in the season opener. He completed 17-of-33 passes for 128 yards with two interceptions.
"I didn't perform well," Mitchell said. "I have to do better taking care of the ball and taking what they give me.
"Coming into this game, we knew we'd have to score to play with their offense, and make plays. They have a great team over there and they showed it today."
There was little positive to take from the day except the Wolfpack outscored the Seminoles 17-7 in the second half. Florida State, however, took out its starters in the third quarter.
Shardach Thorton ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns and led the team with five receptions for 32 yards.
"I just went out there and gave it my all," Thorton said. "I really feel like I should have made plays earlier. Against a team like this, you have to seize the opportunities you get."
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, the NCAA all-time leader in college football victories, was honored before the game in his first return since he retired after the 2009 season. Bowden planted the spear at midfield before the game a job usually done by Florida State's Seminole mascot. The school honored the 83-year-old Hall of Fame coach who won two national titles and retired after the 2009 season with a pregame ceremony that included nearly 400 former players.
Then the current Seminoles went out and put on display that Bowden's best teams would have been proud of, setting up a huge game with unbeaten Miami next week in Tallahassee.
"A lot of people said it was a revenge game but we simply just wanted to show N.C. State that they didn't have a chance last year, either," Winston said. "I mean they're a great team, but we obviously knew that last year's game hurt us and it hurt us deep because it stopped our team from potentially getting a national championship so I'm glad that the guys remembered that and bounced back strong."
Rashad Greene topped 100 yards receiving for the third consecutive game with eight receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown for the Seminoles (7-0, 5-0).
Mitchell threw an interception to Terrence Brooks on the second snap of the game and the Seminoles scored four plays later. This was the beginning of a long day for the Wolfpack, who previously won the last four meetings when the Seminoles were ranked. The 35 first-quarter points tied a Florida State record for the most points in a single quarter.
"It's a step that we're taking," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It's a program step, not a team step, but a program step and understanding how to play in those moments and bounce back and not get too high and respond back."
The Seminoles set a school record for seven consecutive games scoring 40-plus points when Freeman scored on a 4-yard run with 3:06 left in the second quarter.