Nov 16, 2002
By BRENT KALLESTAD
Associated Press Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Nearing the end of a tumultuous season, the Florida State Seminoles know that they’ve at least claimed a share of the ACC title.
Adrian McPherson threw four touchdown passes as the 15th-ranked Seminoles defeated North Carolina 40-14.
Making only his third start and first at home, McPherson threw three scoring passes to Anquan Boldin – two in the second quarter as Florida State took a 17-0 halftime lead.
“They were blitzing on obvious pass downs,” McPherson explained. “My job is just get the ball to the open guy.”
The Seminoles (8-3, 7-0 ACC) can earn a Bowl Championship Series berth and outright win their 10th conference title in 11 seasons with a win next Saturday at North Carolina State or if Maryland loses any of its final three league games.
Boldin, who caught five passes for 104 yards, got the Seminoles a little breathing room when he turned what looked like a routine first-down pass into a 43-yard touchdown, cutting back to the middle of the field and sprinting past the Tar Heels’ secondary.
“Last year we said that Anquan was our playmaker, then we lost him” to a knee injury, Bowden said. “He is still our playmaker. We just have to get him the ball more.”
Boldin said Florida State opponents will soon learn that it’s risky business to blitz McPherson.
“He keeps his composure,” Boldin said. “The blitzing left one-on-one coverage outside which gave us a lot of opportunities.”
After losing three of four games midway through the season, McPherson replaced Chris Rix at quarterback, and the Seminoles are 3-0 since the change.
McPherson completed 5 of 9 passes for 112 yards in the second quarter, teaming with Boldin on touchdown plays covering 43 and 19 yards.
Xavier Beitia began the scoring with a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and added a 31-yard kick midway through the third quarter that gave Florida State a 20-0 lead.
North Carolina (2-9, 0-7) cut the deficit to 20-7 in the third quarter when C.J. Stephens threw a 14-yard scoring pass to tight end Bobby Blizzard.
But the Seminoles countered immediately with two touchdowns. McPherson lobbed a 4-yard scoring throw to Boldin for a 26-7 lead, and on the next drive connected with Talman Gardner for a 20-yard scoring pass.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said North Carolina coach John Bunting. “We’ll learn from this experience. When we come back here in two years, a lot of those guys have the understanding of what the environment is down here.”
“It’s the type of program we want to be someday,” Stephens said about Florida State. “It’s a model for us to look at.”
McPherson completed 15 of 30 passes for 237 yards, while freshman Leon Washington made his first start at tailback and picked up 56 yards and 13 carries. He was backed up by another true freshman, Thomas Clayton, who added 24 yards on eight carries.
“They got some good experience,” Bowden said. “When you’re playing your number four tailback, your second-team center and guard, things were not that bad.”
Rix, who lost the starting job after a loss to Notre Dame last month, came into the game in the fourth quarter and threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Craphanso Thorpe on his first play, giving the Seminoles a 40-7 lead.
North Carolina added a late score on a 14-yard pass from Matt Baker to Danny Rumley with just 40 seconds left in the game.
North Carolina will try to avoid its first winless season in the league since 1989 next Saturday at Duke, which has lost 24 straight ACC games.
“It’s very frustrating for all of us,” Bunting said. “A couple plays … that’s the difference sometimes in a great team and a bad team. Right now, I guess you can say we’re a bad team.”
The Tar Heels have been outscored 172-33 in their last four games.