Oct. 2, 2004
By BRENT KALLESTAD
Associated Press Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Just like in the classroom, Florida State’s Wyatt Sexton keeps on passing his on-field tests with style.
Sexton, who earlier this week was inducted into the university’s prestigious Golden Key International Honor Society in recognition of his team-best 3.77 grade point average, threw three touchdown passes in his starting debut Saturday as No. 9 Florida State defeated North Carolina 38-16.
Florida State (3-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) built a 24-6 lead early in the third quarter, but didn’t put the game out of reach until Sexton’s 15-yard TD pass to Chauncey Stovall completed the scoring with 6:53 left.
Stovall also caught a 5-yard scoring pass in the final minute of the first half that gave Florida State a 21-6 lead at halftime over North Carolina (2-3, 1-2).
“I felt comfortable and real at ease with everything today,” Sexton said. “I’ve been waiting my whole life.”
Sexton hit 10 of 11 passes to open the game as he took the Seminoles to touchdowns on their first two drives.
“You can’t ask for much more than leading us to touchdowns on our first two drives,” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.
Sexton completed 6 of 7 passes for 48 yards and drove the Seminoles 81 yards on their opening drive of the game, climaxed by Leon Washington’s 18-yard run for a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play.
Washington ran for 153 yards on just 10 carries and Lorenzo Booker added 84 yards, including a 12-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
“Both can do the same thing, just in different ways,” Bowden said. “One throws a fastball and the other a curve.”
Washington said the Seminoles respond well to Sexton’s leadership.
“A lot of guys feed off the energy he has,” Washington said. “Maybe he has to be calm, because he can’t run the ball.”
Florida State ignored the running game for most of the first half, but picked up 190 of its 249 yards rushing in the second half.
In the last two games, Sexton has hooked up with Stovall to complete 13 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
Sexton is 43 for 66 for 406 yards this season, with four touchdowns and an interception.
“I think he’s a heck of a player,” said North Carolina coach John Bunting, who tried unsuccessfully to recruit Sexton. “I’ve said that before and he reinforced that today.”
North Carolina managed 363 yards against Florida State’s tough defense, but had difficulty reaching the end zone.
“When you play against a team like this, you’ve got to get seven points,” North Carolina quarterback Darian Durant said. “We didn’t capitalize like we needed to.”
Durant passed for 254 yards and the Tar Heels’ lone touchdown, an 8-yard scoring toss to Jawarski Pollock in the third quarter that cut Florida State’s lead to 24-13.
Connor Barth kicked field goals of 20, 32 and 37 yards to round out North Carolina’s scoring.
Sexton also teamed with Craphanso Thorpe on an 11-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Lorenzo Booker added a 12-yard scoring run.
Sexton, who completed 20 of 31 passes for 191 yards, came off the bench last week and rallied Florida State from a 7-3 deficit to a 41-22 victory over Clemson after Rix sprained his right ankle.
Rix was on the sideline Saturday with a soft cast on his ankle and said he wasn’t sure when he’ll be able to return.
“They said I’m ahead of schedule,” said Rix, who is out at least another week. “I’m focusing on getting back healthy.”
But whether or not he has the starting job is another matter in the wake of consecutive strong performances by Sexton.
“I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole,” Bowden said when asked who would start after Rix heals.
Florida State put freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford into the game in the fourth quarter, but he sprained his right ankle on an bootleg to his left on his first college play, a call Sexton criticized afterward as “crazy.”
His coach agreed.
“I wish we hadn’t called it,” Bowden said. “It was a bad way to break him in.”