November 2, 1998
By Matt Rehm
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — For North Carolina, a moral victory in Tallahassee is the equivalent of getting carrot sticks in your trick-or-treat basket. It’s probably good for you in the long run, but it’s not what you’re hoping for on Halloween night.
UNC limited Florida State to 75 yards rushing, sacked quarterback Chris Weinke four times, forced FSU’s offense to go three-and-out six times and scored its first touchdown against the Seminoles since 1995. But when the Tar Heels threatened to make a game of it in the fourth quarter, Florida State lit them up like a jack-o’-lantern, pulling away for a 39-13 win Saturday night in front of 80,050 fans in Doak Campbell Stadium.
With Nebraska’s loss to Texas on Saturday, the Seminoles’ current 38-game home unbeaten streak ranks as the longest in the nation.
“I felt like tonight when we opened it up, we were pretty darn good,” said Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. “When we tried to run the ball, we kind of struggled. I’ve got a feeling we have to open it up, because now Weinke is ready for that. I think he has gotten to the point now where we can come out flinging that ball again.”
Weinke threw for a career-high 338 yards on 15-of-27 attempts, including fourth-quarter scoring strikes of 56-yards to Peter Warrick and 49-yards to Laveranues Coles. Weinke has now thrown a school-record 202 consecutive passes without an interception, a streak which spans seven games.
Meanwhile, Warrick won the highly-anticipated battle with UNC cornerback Dre Bly, scoring one touchdown and piling up 125 yards on only three receptions.
“The big question was, ‘Could Dre cover Peter Warrick?,'” said Weinke. “You tell me. It was kind of obvious tonight. Pete got by him, and I missed him a couple times. It jut goes to show what kind of athlete Pete is.”
Coles had an equally impressive night, with a career-high 120 yards and one touchdown on five receptions.
UNC once again rotated senior quarterback Oscar Davenport and freshman Ronald Curry. Davenport finished 9-for-17 for 126 yards but was sacked five times. Curry wsa only 5-for-13 for 49 yards, but he threw for one touchdown and avoided the FSU pass rush all night.
Redshirt freshman tailback Rufus Brown led the Tar Heels in rushing, gaining 64 yards on 20 attempts. Both teams ended up dead-even on the ground with 75 yards apiece.
This is the second consecutive game in which Florida State blew open a relatively close game in the fourth quarter. Last week at Georgia Tech, FSU took a mere three-point lead into the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 34-7 win. On Saturday night, the Seminoles allowed North Carolina to pull within 10 points with just over 11 minutes remaining before responding with the bombs to Warrick and Coles.
“We’re a fourth quarter team,” said Warrick. “It’s a 60-minute ball game. You can’t go out there, score the first touchdown and say, ‘It’s over.’ It’s not over, because we’re a 60-minute ball team.”
Bowden attributed Florida State’s late-game dominance to its depth.
“I’ve got a feeling it’s because we play so many boys,” said Bowden. “The other team wears down and at the end we’re still fresh.”
Florida State took a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal with 8:58 remaining in the first quarter.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Seminole defensive tackle Billy Rhodes recovered a Brown fumble on the UNC 27. A holding penalty gave FSU a 3rd-and-38, but Weinke converted it by spinning out of the grasp of UNC defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban and lofting a 42-yard heave to Coles, who outjumped cornerback Steve Fisher. This set up Janikowski’s second field goal of the night, this one from 28 yards.
Warrick sat out the first quarter due to an unexcused absence from Thursday’s practice, but Weinke wasted no time in looking for his star flanker when he finally took the field. On the second play after he entered the game, Warrick darted past Bly for a 33-yard reception to the FSU 1-yard line, setting up a Travis Minor touchdown that put the Seminoles ahead 13-0.
“Dre Bly is a great cornerback,” said Warrick. “He’s very disciplined. He doesn’t go for all of the fakes. If you’re going to beat him, you just have to go, and that’s what I did. Deep down inside, we’re a big-play team with big-play receivers.”
“He simply ran by that corner,” said Bowden. “And that corner is a number-one draft choice, I believe.”
UNC finally got on the board on a 42-yard field goal by Josh McGee, making the score 13-3 with 7:03 remaining in the half. The score was set up with Tar Heel safety Jomo Legins tipped a Keith Cottrell punt, giving Carolina the ball at the FSU 34. On 3rd-and-12 from the 36, Curry scampered 11 yards to set up the kick.
The Tar Heels then forced a three-and-out, and a 16-yard Na Brown punt return gave UNC the ball at the FSU 39. But on the Heels’ first play, Brown fumbled again, and the ball was recovered at the FSU 42 by Jamal Reynolds, who made his first career start at defensive end.
This set the stage for a chaotic ending to the first half. Keyed by a 24-yard pass from Weinke to Marvin Minnis, FSU marched down to the Carolina 2-yard line with 48 seconds remaining before intermission. The clock was stopped briefly while UNC’s Ekuban and Mike Pringley were tended to by trainers. The clock continued to roll after the injured players left the field, but Weinke remained on the sidelines, and the Seminoles were charged with delay of game with 16 seconds remaining.
After five yards were marked off for the penalty, the clock restarted and appeared to expire. The Tar Heels began to walk off the field, but after the officials huddled, one second was added to the clock and FSU was awarded a time out. Janikowski then hit his third field goal of the game, this one from 24 yards, giving the Seminoles a 16-3 halftime lead.
FSU extended the lead to 23-3 on a 16-yard Minor run with 11:11 remaining in the third quarter. The score was set up when Warrick again beat Bly, this time picking up 28 yards on 3rd-and-20 when the Tar Heel cornerback mistimed his jump on an underthrown ball.
The Heels responded with a 10-pay, 74-yard drive, highlighted by a 22-yard pass from Daveport to Greg Harris. The Seminoles were assessed a 15-yard penalty for a late hit on Davenport, moving the ball to the FSU 22. On the next play, Rufus Brown ripped off 15 yards on a draw, but the Tar Heel drive stalled inside the FSU 5-yard line. UNC had to settle for a 22-yard McGee field goal, cutting the FSU lead to 22-6 with 6:44 left in the third quarter.
Carolina had a chance to cut further into the lead, driving to the FSU 25-yard line on their next possession. But nose guard Corey Simon ended that scoring threat by sacking Davenport when UNC opted not to kick a field goal on 4th-and-5.
But the UNC defense held firm, forcing FSU into its fifth three-and-out when Weinke was sacked for the fourth time, this one by Mike Pringley. Carolina took over at its own 30 and embarked on a 13-play, 70 scoring drive, drawing to within 23-13 with 11:02 to play when Curry hit freshman Kory Bailey over the middle for a seven-yard touchdown.
“It was a quick slant,” said FSU cornerback Tay Cody. “That was one of the weaknesses of our defense tonight. I think they had a lot of success with that and were able to move the ball with it.”
The last time the Tar Heels scored a touchdown against FSU was in 1995, on a reception by tight end Freddie Jones.
However, FSU extinguished any thoughts of a comeback on its next drive, courtesy of Warrick’s third big reception of the night. This time, Warrick took advantage of zone coverage, splitting the UNC safeties and bursting free up the middle of the field, and Weinke hit him perfectly in stride for a 56-yard touchdown strike.
Weinke wasn’t finished, though. On FSU’s next possession, he faked a toss left and rolled right, finding Coles for a 49-yard touchdown with 6:02 remaining. The extra point attempt was no good, so the Seminoles led 36-13.
“We just felt like they were putting so much pressure on us, we needed to start rolling out a little bit,” said Weinke. “We felt like our guys on the outside were faster than their defensive backs, and if we keep playing hard for 60 minutes, we’re going to make some big plays because we have those type of players in this offense.”
Janikowski hit a 42-yard field goal with 2:36 remaining to give FSU the final margin of 39-13.