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Seminoles find balance in dismantling of Heels

Stagnant running game explodes for 194 yards, keying a 63-14 blowout.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


photo
[Times photo: Joseph Garnett Jr.]
Anquan Boldin gets Marvin Minnis in a headlock after Minnis' touchdown in the second quarter.
TALLAHASSEE -- As they sat in their locker room Saturday evening, Florida State tailbacks Travis Minor and Jeff Chaney feigned the same expression of disbelief.

"Why's everybody asking me that?" Chaney said.

"Yeah, me too," Minor said with a shrug.

Well, guys, when a running game that had been gaining a paltry 1.9 yards a carry and shreds North Carolina's top-rated run defense for 194 yards, it does prompt questions such as, "Where has that been?"

Or from the Tar Heels' sideline, "Why now?"

Whatever.

But for the first time this season, the No. 2-ranked Seminoles showed the kind of balanced offense folks expected to see and feared they might never see as FSU routed the Tar Heels 63-14 before a near-capacity crowd of 79,287 at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The points not only were the most for the Seminoles since a 72-13 win against Wake Forest on Oct. 14, 1995, they were the most UNC had allowed since a 66-0 loss to Virginia on Nov. 26, 1912, almost 17 years before FSU coach Bobby Bowden's birth.

"We played pretty good, but the score surprised me," Bowden said. "I thought we might score 30-something points and they'd score 21/2 (touchdowns)."

But thanks to an opportunistic defense, another solid passing performance from senior quarterback Chris Weinke and his skilled stable of receivers, and an invigorated running game, the Seminoles (3-0 overall, 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) stuck it to the Heels.

Minor gained 112 yards on 16 attempts (a 7.0-yard average) as FSU, operating more from the I-formation than it has in recent years, finished with its best run total since 1997.

"We knew it was just a matter of time," Minor said. "The last two weeks we were close on a lot of runs, so I think we just took the attitude that everybody just had to go and get better, look at film. It was just a matter of going out there and doing what we're capable of doing. We never lost confidence, although the numbers weren't like we wanted them to be."

Bowden said he didn't stress the run more during practice, figuring his team could throw the ball with more success against a UNC defense that had allowed 17 yards rushing in its first two games combined.

Bowden said he wasn't alarmed by his team's running struggles against Brigham Young and Georgia Tech, not when the passing game had averaged 400 yards.

"But that was encouraging that the numbers did show up in the running game," he said.

On this day, it set up the vaunted passing attack.

The Seminoles took a 14-0 lead, but electrifying junior quarterback Ronald Curry led UNC on a 10-play, 90-yard drive to cut the deficit to 14-7 in the waning seconds of the opening quarter.

After Chance Gwaltney answered with a 39-yard field goal, FSU reserve defensive tackle Tony Benford stripped fullback Ronnie Anderson, the first of three lost fumbles for the Heels (2-1, 1-1).

Safety Chris Hope scooped it up and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown and a 23-7 lead. Gwaltney missed the extra point, the first of two that would cost him his starting job.

"We were concentrating on making big plays and causing turnovers because we didn't create any last week against Georgia Tech, and that reflected on our defense," Hope said.

A few moments later, Chaney shrugged off a seemingly punishing hit from linebacker Quincy Monk, kept his balance and raced into the end zone for a 29-7 lead.

"He hit me but he didn't wrap up, and we're taught to keep going," said Chaney, who finished with 51 yards on five carries for a 10.2-yard average.

On the ensuing kickoff, FSU freshman tailback Greg Jones jarred the ball loose from sophomore return man Bosley Allen, a former Bradenton Southeast High standout who had 264 yards of total offense and two touchdowns last week against Wake Forest. Linebacker Lee Weaver recovered at the UNC 14.

Three plays later, Weinke found senior receiver Marvin Minnis, a quickly emerging star, between a pair of defenders for an 11-yard touchdown to cap a 22-0 blitz in a span of 5:54.

Last season, FSU blew out UNC with a 28-0 scoring spree in the opening 6:27 in Chapel Hill.

"He was supposed to go to the other side, but I guess it wasn't open and he came back to my side," said Minnis, who had five catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. "He threaded it between them and I made the play."

"We played like we're capable of playing," Weinke said. "We established the run tonight ... but again, you haven't seen our best yet, and that's promising."

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