FSU 40, UNC 14: Heels put up little fight 14 months after win.
By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 17, 2002
TALLAHASSEE -- The last time his team met North Carolina, Florida State receiver Anquan Boldin watched from the comfort of his living room.
For a while, anyway.
"I had to turn the TV because I couldn't believe what was happening," said Boldin, who had reconstructive knee surgery shortly before that game Sept.22, 2001, in Chapel Hill, N.C.
For more than a year, he and his teammates have waited for the chance to pay back North Carolina for a loss that began the end of their dominating ways.
That chance came Saturday, and the Seminoles, despite missing three senior starters on offense, routed the inexperienced, injury-plagued Tar Heels 40-14 before an announced homecoming crowd of 81,910 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The No. 15-ranked Seminoles (8-3 overall, 7-0 ACC) clinched at least a tie for the league title for the 10th time in 11 seasons, the lone blemish coming last season.
They can win it outright and earn the league's Bowl Championship Series berth by beating North Carolina State on Saturday. Maryland, which defeated Clemson 30-12 on Saturday, is 11/2 games behind with Virginia and Wake Forest left.
If the Terps and Seminoles finish tied, the BCS berth would be determined by the final BCS standings.
"You can't say (the FSU aura is) back because we've lost three nonconference games," receiver Talman Gardner said. "The feeling isn't really there yet. We still feel like we have work to do, but we have three more games, including a bowl."
"This," Boldin said, "was a step in the right direction."
For a while, the Seminoles didn't want to think about the future. Instead, they wanted only to relish a victory that represented a measure of revenge for the past.
"They embarrassed us last year," cornerback Stanford Samuels said of the 41-9 loss, the team's worst regular-season defeat since 1985. "They were jumping around. Their fans eventually got the goal posts down. I wish we could have beat them a little worse."
But at the outset, the Seminoles' patchwork offense sputtered against the Tar Heels (2-9, 0-7), who have lost their past six.
Sophomore guard Bobby Meeks and sophomore center David Castillo made their first starts in place of injured seniors Montrae Holland (sprained ankle) and Antoine Mirambeau (sprained knee). Freshmen Leon Washington and Thomas Clayton filled in at tailback for Nick Maddox.
"We played good, but we played with errors," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "We still showed our inadequacies by not jumping on them early."
Quarterback Adrian McPherson, in his third start, first at home, led the Seminoles downfield on their opening drive. But Xavier Beitia missed a 37-yard field goal. (He later had a 27-yarder blocked.)
Beitia made a 47-yarder into a stiff wind to give FSU a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter. The offense then began to take advantage of North Carolina's defense, ranked 112th nationally overall (468.2 yards) and 106th in scoring (36.0 points).
He found Boldin for a short catch on the right flank. Boldin ran through cornerback Derrick Johnson's one-arm tackle then outran the rest of the secondary for a 43-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead.
In the final minute of the half, McPherson rolled right on a third and 1 and hit a leaping Boldin for a 19-yard touchdown and 17-0 halftime lead.
"They blitzed us a lot the whole game, which gave us some one-on-one coverages on the outside," Boldin said. "Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of that. (McPherson) came out and played well."
After Beitia hit a 31-yard field goal, the Heels avoided the shutout when Florida transfer C.J. Stephens hit tight end Bobby Blizzard for a 14-yard touchdown.
McPherson closed the third quarter with touchdowns to Boldin, a 4-yard fade, and Gardner, a 20-yard post.
"I thought the offensive line played well, and the receivers made some great plays," said McPherson, who completed 15 of 30 passes for 237 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
He also rushed 11 times for 46 yards.
"The thing I liked about (McPherson) is that he ran better," Bowden said. "He was kind of a dangerous runner instead of slipping and sliding. That was encouraging."
So, too, was the Seminoles' zero turnovers. Last year, the Seminoles committed five turnovers that fueled the Tar Heels' outburst.
"Coach Bowden has a ton of wide receivers, and he has a ton of running backs," North Carolina coach John Bunting said. "To their credit, they do an amazing job. They are a great team.
"Someday, I hope we can be close to that."