Big second quarter propels Florida State past UNC, 35-25

Sunday, October 10, 2021
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell is surrounded by Florida State defenders as he runs with the ball Saturday in Chapel Hill.
Gerry Broome-AP

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina head coach Mack Brown remained winless against Florida State as the Tar Heels fell 35-25 on Saturday.

With UNC playing at home against a downtrodden Seminoles program, the stage seemed set for Brown to earn his first career win against Florida State.

But Jordan Travis threw three touchdown passes and rushed for two more scores as Florida State upset North Carolina for the second consecutive year.

Brown fell to 0-11 vs. his alma mater (including 0-8 while in charge of the Tar Heels).

"We're not good enough to win unless we play well," Brown said.

After the Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 10-0, the Seminoles battled back with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 21-10 lead at halftime that they never relinquished.

"It has been a roller coaster this whole season," Travis said. "The boys came out today and we responded. We went down 10-0 pretty early."

Travis threw a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes sandwiched around his 53-yard touchdown run to rally the Seminoles.

"I was able to cut upfield and make a play," Travis said of the long run. "But once again, I couldn't do it without the guys blocking in front of me."

Travis ran for 121 yards on 14 carries and completed 11 of 13 passes for 145 yards. Two of his touchdown throws went to Ontaria Wilson and another to Malik McClain.

The Tar Heels (3-3, 2-3), who began the season in the Top 10, lost for the first time in four home outings despite two touchdown passes and 108 yards rushing from quarterback Sam Howell.

North Carolina is halfway through its schedule and already has been inflicted with as many losses as all of the 2020 regular season.

"It's disappointing for us, disappointing for our fans," Howell said. "Obviously no one thought we'd be 3-3 at this point in the season."

Travis threw 32 yards to Wilson for a touchdown on Florida State's next possession to stretch the lead with 53 seconds left in the half.

"The two or three deep balls that he hit were the difference in the ball game," Brown said of Travis.

Howell hit Kamari Morales in the end zone on a 21-yard play on North Carolina's first possession of the second half to close within 21-17.

Florida State responded with Travis' 1-yard sneak. The Seminoles scored again on Travis' 6-yard toss to Wilson.

"We know how we play and how we're supposed to play," said Florida State cornerback Jarrian Jones, who had an interception in the end zone in the second quarter. "Going on the road, nobody really gives you a chance, especially us being 1-4. We believe in us."

It marked Florida State's first road win in six tries under second-year coach Mike Norvell.

"To be able to come on the road and do the things we did, it was a challenge," Norvell said.

North Carolina's Josh Downs, who hauled in a 33-yard pass for the game's first touchdown, has caught at least one touchdown pass in every game this season.

North Carolina kicker Grayson Atkins booted a 51-yard field goal to conclude the game's opening possession, matching his longest as a Tar Heel since transferring from Furman.

UNC fell to 3-3 overall with the loss. Florida State improved to 2-4, 2-2 in the conference after losing its first four games to open the season.

Brown, whose team was hit with 12 penalties for 110 yards Saturday, said the expectations for this year have been out of kilter. Still, a second double-digit margin setback is disturbing.

"We can learn from this. Learn from what we didn't do well," Brown said. "Learn from momentum changes. Learn from being down, being frustrated."

The Tar Heels host Miami next Saturday to complete a three-game homestand.