Seminoles escape second half scare, garner first ACC win in 31-28 victory over #5 Tar Heels
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida State was held scoreless throughout the second half by #5 North Carolina but stood tall on defense when it mattered most as the Seminoles defeated the Tar Heels, 31-28, in front of an announced crowd of 18,016 at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory for FSU is the program’s first over a Top 5 team since defeating #5 Notre Dame 31-27 on October 18, 2014, a game also played at Doak.
Saturday’s victory also snapped a two-game losing streak to North Carolina, marking the first win over the Tar Heels since 2009 and the first home victory for FSU over UNC since the 2004 campaign.
Leading 31-7 out of halftime, Florida State marched down the field to inside the UNC 21-yardline before stalling out and missing a 33-yard field goal attempt.
It took until 4:07 to play for points to be scored in the second half, when UNC - helped by a short field, starting at the FSU 49 - scored their second touchdown of the game on quarterback Sam Howell’s first passing score of the day, connecting with Javonte Williams on a 38-yard touchdown pass to cut into FSU’s lead at 31-15.
On the ensuing Tar Heel drive, Howell and Beau Corrales connected twice, once for a 40-yard pick up and again for a 33-yard touchdown to pull UNC within 31-21, in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
On the final play of the third quarter, Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis threw an interception - the only turnover FSU had on the day - which could have given the Tar Heels life, but it did not, as UNC missed a 44-yard field goal, keeping the deficit a 10-point one.
FSU then went on their clock-kill drive, going 53 yards in 11 plays and taking 6:59 off the clock before missing their second field goal of the game, this one from 38-yards out, to keep it a 31-21 affair.
While they didn’t take advantage of the Travis interception, the Tar Heels did take advantage of the Noles' missed field goal, marching down the field 80 yards in just seven plays, for a 25-yard touchdown pass from Howell to Dyami Brown, making for a 31-28 game.
UNC forced FSU three-and-out and started its final possession of the game from their own 22, but was able to move the ball quickly down to the FSU 42.
From there, Michael Carter rushed for a one-yard game, and Howell threw three consecutive incompletions to ice the victory for FSU.
The scoring started early for the Seminoles, who ended the first series of the game by blocking a Tar Heel punt and, on the first play from scrimmage, put the first points on the board after Travis kept a read-option and strolled into the end zone from 23 yards out to give the Noles an early 7-0 lead.
FSU struck next with a 24-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter, taking a 10-0 lead, in a drive that could have been much more.
Travis appeared to have connected with Ontaria Wilson for a 62-yard touchdown play but, after a review showed Wilson stepped out of bounds at the four, the Seminoles had a first-and-goal. Later in the drive, it appeared running back La’Damian Webb had scored the game’s second touchdown, but an illegal motion penalty caused that score to be called back, forcing the Noles to settle for three.
Florida State scored 21 points in the final 3:29 of the first half, starting with Travis' second rushing score of the game, this one from one-yard out, to make it 17-0.
A strong defensive stand by the Noles set up the scoring drive, which spanned 75 yards on nine plays in 3:38, stopping UNC at the FSU 24 on fourth and one after the Heels marched 50 yards in 11 plays in what was their, at the time, best drive of the game.
Three plays after Travis' score, the Noles brought pressure against Howell and a rushed throw landed in the hands of Joshua Kaindoh, who took it to the end zone untouched for a 25-yard pick six, giving Florida State a 24-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, though, the Tar Heels finally hit paydirt, as running back Javonte Williams scored on a one-yard rush to cut into the Noles lead, 24-7.
The drive saw an efficient Howell work, completing two of his three pass attempts for 49 yards and drew two key penalties - a targeting called against Corey Durden and a roughing the passer penalty - that reset the downs for the Heels.
Williams was also impressive on the drive, taking three rushes for 33 yards and the exclamation point touchdown.
But, the Seminoles weren’t content taking a 17-point lead into halftime, instead taking just five plays to score the final touchdown of the first half in a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Camren McDonald, who was unguarded in the end zone, making for a 31-7 lead that the Noles took into halftime.
That scoring drive was led completely by Travis, who rushed for 30 yards on two carries and passed for another 45 yards.
Travis finished the game completing eight of his 19 pass attempts for 191 yards, a touchdown and an incompletion.
He added 107 yards rushing on 16 carries and two touchdowns on the ground.
FSU was led on the ground by La’Damian Webb, who is beginning to emerge as the FSU workhorse; he totaled 109 yards on 12 touches.
Howell, a former Florida State commit - finished with 374 passing yards, completing 20 of his 36 attempts, for three touchdowns and an interception.
Williams totaled 186 yards from scrimmage for the Tar Heels, leading all rushers with 119 yards on 18 touches and a touchdown and adding three catches for 67 yards.
Florida State, who is now 2-3 overall and 1-3 in ACC play, will take on the Louisville Cardinals in the Bluegrass State next week. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.
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