The Florida State Seminoles put together an unbelievable effort on Saturday afternoon to walk out of North Carolina with a 35-25 victory. After trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, the Seminoles went on a 35-7 run through the two middle frames to dominate this game. Quarterback Jordan Travis starred with his legs but also made timely plays with his arm. He finished 11/13 passing for 145 yards and three touchdowns while adding 14 carries for 121 yards and two more scores.
Travis' 53-yard run in the second quarter was his longest rush of the 2021 season through six games. It was an impressive effort from the redshirt sophomore following his late-game heroics against Syracuse. He has cemented himself as the starting quarterback moving into the second half of the season.
Defensive backs Jammie Robinson and Sidney Williams both delivered solid performances. They each contributed in the run game and Williams made a few solid plays in coverage. Fabien Lovett came up big on the defensive line with Dennis Briggs out for the season.
All in all, Florida State is heading home with its second straight victory and the first road win of the Mike Norvell era. It's a nice feeling.
Here are three thoughts on the upset.
1. The running game punched North Carolina in the mouth
Coming into this matchup, it was stressed how crucial it would be for the Florida State running attack to produce and grind up the clock. The Seminoles did just that as Jordan Travis, Treshaun Ward, and Jashaun Corbin each made big plays when they were needed.
The highlight play was Travis' long touchdown scamper up the left side but Ward and Corbin had a few huge runs as well. On a drive in the second quarter, Corbin ran for 16 yards on third and 8 and Travis would go on to throw a touchdown pass to get FSU on the board. On the last drive of the game, Ward was hit in the backfield by two defenders and shook them off to fight for a conversion on third down to help the Seminoles run out the clock.
It was a powerful performance from FSU as they repeatedly punched North Carolina in the mouth. By the second half, the Tar Heels didn't have much of an answer for the 'Noles offense as they worked downfield at will. They had touchdown drives of 75 and 83 yards in the third quarter to essentially put the game out of reach.
The final total numbers on the ground were 41 carries for 238 (5.8 YPC) and two touchdowns. FSU only put the ball in the air 13 times, If there's one thing we learned today it's pound the rock and believe in your game plan.
2. The defense delivered in crucial situations
The Seminoles came into this game short-handed on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackles Dennis Briggs and Jarrett Jackson were out along with defensive backs Meiko Dotson, Brendan Gant, and Renardo Green. It didn't help that others such as Fabien Lovett and Kalen DeLoach were also banged up. Regardless of the injuries, the unit stepped up and limited a deadly North Carolina offense.
The Tar Heels had been red hot at home until Saturday, averaging 52.3 points per game. Sam Howell had not thrown an interception within the comforts of Chapel Hill. Florida State flipped the script, holding North Carolina to just 25 points, with the final score being basically garbage time, and picking off Howell in the second quarter.
It looked ugly in the first quarter but the defense forced a three and out following the Seminoles' first touchdown of the game that quickly allowed them to score again and take the lead. On the following possession, Jarrian Jones came down with an underthrown pass in the end zone. FSU would go on another touchdown drive to go up 21-10.
In the final frame with a chance to get back into the game, North Carolina had 1st and goal at the five. Fabien Lovett promptly stuffed back-to-back runs and Howell's pass was too high on third down. The Tar Heels elected to go for it and true freshman Kevin Knowles played great coverage to break up the pass and force a turnover on downs.
The 'Noles also held North Carolina to 7-13 on third downs. It was a gritty showing from a defense that has been taken advantage of at times this season. They've regrouped and are fighting hard right now.
3. Florida State and Mike Norvell have something to build on
The worry over the first month of the season was that Florida State was fielding a worse on-field product than 2020 and the touted recruiting class would fall apart. In the last two weeks, that feeling has shifted towards optimism that head coach Mike Norvell and his coaching staff can still work some magic in the final six games.
The win against North Carolina was probably the biggest moment thus far during Norvell's tenure in Tallahassee. Not only was it his first win on the road, Florida State is 2-4 instead of 1-5 and will LIKELY get to within one game of .500 heading into a showdown with Clemson.
As for the recruiting impact, the coaching staff can sell this victory as a building block for how they're turning this program around. The commitments and top targets who wanted to see results on the field got a chance to do that this weekend. It's one thing to have an impactful message, it's another to prove it on the scoreboard.
The Seminoles went on the road as a heavy underdog and didn't blink twice. One thing I will say is the BYE week can't come at a better time. This team was already bruised up coming into the game and players such as Devontay Love-Taylor, Jarvis Brownlee, Keir Thomas, and Sidney Williams went down with injuries.
A week off to recharge and heal will do Florida State some good as the Seminoles prepare for the second half of the season.
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