Nov. 8, 1997
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Thad Busby threw scoring passes to Melvin Pearsall and E.G.
Green in the first half and the Florida State defense was
dominant as the second-ranked Seminoles laid claim to the number
one ranking with a 20-3 whipping of fifth-ranked North Carolina.
Florida State (9-0, 7-0 ACC) took control of the Atlantic Coast
Conference race and spoiled the season for North Carolina
quarterback Oscar Davenport, who suffered an apparent broken
ankle in the third quarter.
“It wasn’t easy. Our defense was challenged,” said Florida
State coach Bobby Bowden on his 68th birthday. “What I thought
would happen, happened. They haven’t had enough Wide Rights
yet. You have to get kicked around enough in the big games to
learn how to win them.”
North Carolina (8-1, 5-1), which mustered only Josh McGee’s
46-yard field goal with 13:34 remaining, again failed against
the Seminoles. The Tar Heels have never beaten Florida State,
going 0-8-1, and had their 10-game winning streak, which had
been the longest in the country for a few hours, ended.
“If they play like that the rest of the way, they’ll win the
national championship,” said North Carolina coach Mack Brown.
Busby was 14-of-30 for 159 yards with one interception. He was
not sacked, and watched as the Florida State defense tied a
school record with nine sacks, seven against Davenport and two
against Chris Keldorf.
“We had to come in here and execute against a great defense,”
Busby said. “We had some mistakes, but tried to minimize them.
I think we did that. We did what we had to do to get down the
field and score. In the second half, we wanted to hold back a
little and burn time off the clock. Overall, I think we did a
great job as a team. Our defense played its best all season and
we didn’t let up.”
The Tar Heels scored a season-high 48 points against Virginia,
but have seen their point total fall in each of their last five
games. North Carolina never has scored more than 18 points
against the Seminoles, but this was its worst offensive
The Tar Heels registered a paltry 73 yards of total offense on
48 plays. They had only nine yards in the first half and
finished with minus-28 yards rushing for the game.
Florida State’s 20 points matched the best total against North
Carolina this season. The Seminoles had 334 yards of total
offense, including 175 on the ground, 16 more than they had in
the air. The defense was so good that Florida State’s 11
penalties for 105 yards were not a factor. The Seminoles
converted just 3-of-14 third downs, but limited North Carolina
to one successful third-down conversion on 13 attempts.
Travis Minor, a true freshman, carried the ball 30 times for 128
yards, giving the Seminoles the balanced attack that helped them
hold the ball nearly seven minutes more than UNC.
“Our defense continues to improve and our running game continues
to improve and that is the key,” Bowden said. “The defense
played a 60-minute game. We had questions after what happened
against Duke and NC State, but we played 60 minuutes of
defensive football tonight. We were cautious in the second half
offensively with the defense playing so well. Our thinking was
just, `Let’s don’t give it away.’ North Carolina has an
excellent program and coaching staff. We had every
psychological advantage. We’ve got another `big game’ in two
It was the first time in ACC history that two teams ranked in
the top five of any poll faced each other.
North Carolina had the ball on the Florida State 31-yard line on
its first possession after a short punt. But Davenport was
sacked by defensive end Greg Spires for a nine-yard loss and
fumbled the ball away to Andre Wadsworth, who tried a lateral
that was ruled an illegal forward pass and negated a potential
“We control if we win or lose,” said Wadsworth, who is one of
four finalists for the Lombardi Award. “After the first half,
we wanted to keep it pumped up. They (UNC) say that they’re a
second-half team. So we went back out treating it like it was
0-0. I think the pressure was more on them tonight. We are
used to the big games. In fact, we have one in two weeks
(against Florida). … Their defense definitely wanted it, but
our offense wanted it more.”
“(Wadsworth) is the best player I’ve faced in the game,” said
North Carolina tackle Mike Baxter. “Coming into the game, we
thought we were a better team, but as far as I’m concerned, they
are number one. Their front four is excellent. They’re very
relentless, and we knew it going into the game, but they were
the better team today.”
Busby, who was intercepted on the ensuing possession, got things
going 11 minutes into the game when he connected with Pearsall,
the tight end, on an eight-yard scoring pass. Busby started the
seven-play, 55-yard drive with a 17-yard pass to Peter Warrick
and added a 15-yarder to Damian Harrell that got the ball to the
FSU doubled the lead with 4:27 left in the second quarter when
Busby hit Green for a 14-yard score. The three-play, 28-yard
drive was set up by Warrick’s 13-yard punt return and keyed by
Minor’s 14-yard run.
North Carolina could not even get off a punt, stalling following
the kickoff. Linebacker Brian Allen busted through the middle
and blocked Brian Schmitz’s punt, leaving the ball at the UNC
14. A 15-yard holding penalty on the Seminoles led to Sebastian
Janikowski’s 32-yard field goal with 32 seconds left before
halftime, making it 17-0.
“The score doesn’t tell how close the game was,” said UNC
cornerback Dre’ Bly. “They just capitalized on the turnovers and
took advantage of the opportunities and we didn’t. That’s a
great football team. The guys played hard. It’s not that we
didn’t fight hard or we weren’t prepared, they just took a few
turnovers and won the game.”
North Carolina started the second half with a bang, as Davenport
got the Tar Heels into Seminoles territory for the second time
in the game with a 33-yard pass to L.C. Stevens. They got as
far as the 40 before Davenport was dropped by Spires for a
six-yard loss and then by Wadsworth for minus-seven yards.
The Seminoles marched 59 yards in nine plays, leading to
Janikowski’s 40-yard field goal with 6:28 left in the third
North Carolina had its deepest penetration into FSU territory on
the next drive, getting as far as the 22 before Keldorf was
sacked for a seven-yard loss and McGee kicked the 46-yarder.
“Talent-wise, I don’t think there’s a difference between us and
them,” Keldorf said. “I think we’re just as good as the best
teams in the country. Things just didn’t go quite the way we