CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Florida State found its identity, punishing North Carolina on the ground. The defense came up with some timely stops, too.
What began with FSU’s best quarter of football, a dominating performance in the second quarter, continued with an impressive second half. And the Seminoles now have a win over UNC for a second straight season.
Jordan Travis scored a career-high five touchdowns — three passing and two rushing — as Florida State again knocked off North Carolina, 35-25, this time on the road for the first victory away from Doak for the Seminoles under coach Mike Norvell.
The win was monumental for a growing program, especially one that was an 18-point underdog on the road.
FSU was sloppy in the first quarter but played its best 15 minutes of football in the second quarter, scoring 21 points while holding UNC scoreless.
The Seminoles (2-4, 2-2 ACC) have also won back-to-back games for the first time under Norvell, who got an early birthday present. Norvell turns 40 on Monday.
UNC fell to 3-3, 2-3. Mack Brown, who graduated from FSU, still has not beaten his alma mater.
Even when Devontay Love-Taylor was injured on the second drive, FSU was able to impose its will on the ground. With center Maurice Smith back in the starting lineup, and Baveon Johnson filling in at right guard, the Seminoles had 238 rushing yards on 41 carries. FSU looked quite confident in averaging 6 yards per carry.
It is the fifth time in six games this season that FSU has surpassed 200 rushing yards (each game except Wake Forest).
Travis ran 14 times for 121 yards. It was Travis’ third 100-yard rushing game and the second straight week, the first FSU quarterback to surpass that mark in program history. Travis was also 11 of 13 for 145 yards with three touchdowns, two to Ontaria Wilson (32 yards and six yards) and one to Malik McClain (five yards).
Travis has 12 touchdowns in 2021 and now has 28 career touchdowns. He also has surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and now has 1,053.
After a sluggish first quarter, Travis Jay’s 41-yard kickoff return set up FSU. The Seminoles put together a 12-play, 59-yard drive, converted on third-and-8 (a Corbin run) and third-and-6 (Travis pass to Helton) to extend and finished it off with a Jordan Travis 5-yard TD pass to McClain. It was McClain’s first career touchdown.
On FSU’s second touchdown, Travis found a wide-open rush lane off the RPO and cruised 53 yards.
In what was a nice play design, Travis rolled right and drew attention before finding an open Wilson on a 32-yard TD pass. The play gave FSU a 21-10 lead with 53 seconds to half.
The Seminoles were 4 of 5 on third-down conversions in the first half. They finished 7 of 10 on third down.
FSU had quite the response after a UNC touchdown drive in the third quarter. The Seminoles went 75 yards on five plays in 1:59 to extend the lead back to 28-17. The Tar Heels scored again but FSU was able to run out the clock in the final minute.
FSU’s defense gave up 10 points on UNC’s first two drives but played remarkably well after that. The Seminoles held a Power 5 opponent under 30 points for the first time this season.
Jarrian Jones intercepted Sam Howell on a pass into the end zone, halting a second-quarter drive. FSU scored on the ensuing drive.
FSU also stopped UNC on fourth-and-6 with 12:46 to go, halting a 70-yard UNC drive that could have pulled the Tar Heels back into the game.
UNC quarterback Sam Howell found some chunk plays on the ground, racking up 108 rushing yards (including one for 31 yards). The Tar Heels also racked up 229 rushing yards, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
But Howell was held to 17 of 32 for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Jammie Robinson had 12 tackles, and Sidney Williams had 10 tackles. Jermaine Johnson had six tackles and a sack, his seventh on the season. Fabien Lovett and Amari Gainer each had five tackles.
Malcolm Ray started alongside Robert Cooper at defensive tackle. Ray had four tackles and a tackle for loss.
Akeem Dent made a third-down stop of Howell to force UNC into a field goal on the first drive.
Travis Jay had a kickoff return to the 41-yard line to set up FSU’s second drive.
Alex Mastromanno had three punts for a 43.7-yard average.
Ryan Fitzgerald connected on 5 of 5 extra-point attempts.
Love-Taylor was on crutches on the FSU sideline.
FSU has shown some offensive explosion throughout the first half of the season, with five touchdowns of 50+ yards. Jashaun Corbin had an 89-yard TD run and Ja’Khi Douglas had a 60-yard TD reception vs. Notre Dame. Ontaria Wilson had a 65-yard TD reception at Wake. Corbin had a 75-yard TD run vs. Louisville. Travis had a 53-yard TD run in the second quarter Saturday.
The Tar Heels racked up 12 penalties for 110 yards.
FSU is 17-3-1 in the series with UNC and 8-1 in games at Chapel Hill.
UNC honored coach Bobby Bowden by displaying his trademark hat on the visitor’s sideline. A photo of Bowden and UNC coach Mack Brown was also displayed during a break in the first quarter.
Howell has thrown a TD pass in all of his 31 games and he has at least two TD passes in 26 of his games. UNC tight end Kamari Morales has scored a touchdown in four straight games.