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Game story: Jordan Travis leads FSU to emphatic victory at North Carolina

Adding to the Sod Cemetery.

Florida State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

“I really do believe this is a new team,” said Mike Norvell after Florida State football’s 35-25 win at North Carolina. And a new team was exactly what Florida State football looked like. For the first four weeks of the season, the Seminoles couldn’t make winning plays. In Chapel Hill, that’s all they did. The Seminoles were 7-10 on third downs, 3-3 in the red zone, didn’t allow a sack, and didn’t commit any turnovers. Norvell said, “Tonight, we played winning football.”

The Seminoles entered Chapel Hill as 18-point underdogs and left as 10-point winners. How does that happen? Belief. “They believe. They believe in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We want these guys to play to the best of their ability,” said Norvell.

An upset also happens when the best player on the field is your quarterback. Jordan Travis was by far the best player on the field in Chapel Hill. Travis was 11-13 for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He also set a career high with 121 rushing yards. After Norvell’s first ever road win, Travis was FSU’s sod captain, cutting out a piece of the UNC turf to bring back to FSU’s sod cemetery. After the game, the QB said, “I’m so blessed to be part of this Florida State football team.”

Moments that mattered

UNC controls first quarter, scores first ten points

The Tar Heels dictated the game in the first quarter. By the time FSU ran their fourth play, UNC had already ran 21 and opened a ten-point lead. In the first quarter, the Seminoles had more penalty yards than total yards. North Carolina opened the scoring with a 51-yard field goal by Grayson Atkins. It was the fifth time in six games that FSU’s opponent scored on their opening drive. The Seminoles responded with a quick three-and-out.

A Florida State penalty kickstarted the Tar Heels’ next drive. On fourth-and-one in UNC territory, Robert Cooper jumped offsides to grant Sam Howell’s offense a first down. Howell responded with an 11-yard rush to move UNC into FSU territory. The QB then throw a strike to Josh Downs for a 33-yard TD to open a 10-point lead.

FSU converts crucial third downs on 12-play TD drive

Florida State’s offense had to have an answer on their next drive to stay in the game. They found those answers on third down. On the first play of the second quarter, Jashaun Corbin rushed for 16 yards for a conversion on third-and-eight. Three plays later, Travis connected with Keyshawn Helton for a nine yard gain on third-and-sixth. Malik McClain ran a pretty comeback route on third-and-goal, before making a diving catch on a rollout pass from Travis for a touchdown. The touchdown was the first of the freshman’s career.

Travis breaks loose to give the ‘Noles the lead

Florida State’s defense built off the offense’s momentum with a quick three-and-out. Jammie Robinson had a pass breakup in one-on-one coverage on third down to force a punt. Three plays later, the Seminoles had a lead. A pair of runs gave the ‘Noles a quick first down. Travis kept a read, got a block from Corbin and Camren McDonald, and broke loose for a 53-yard touchdown run to put FSU on top. From there, the Seminoles never looked back.

Jones comes up with clutch INT, ‘Noles march down field for double-digit halftime lead

Howell looked to be leading the Tar Heels back down the field with a response to FSU’s offensive surge. But the Seminoles’ secondary came up with a big play. On first-and-ten from FSU’s 30, Howell targeted Jarrian Jones downfield in one-on-one coverage. Jones skied high to reel in an interception at the goal line and put the ball back in Travis’ hands. After the game, Jones said, “The past two weeks, Coach Norvell has stayed on me about being focused. These past two weeks, we’ve been locked in on my technique.”

Back-to-back Treshaun Ward touches resulted in a first down. After Travis moved the ‘Noles across midfield with his legs again, he found Ontaria Wilson crossing the field for a 32-yard touchdown connection. The passing TD put the ‘Noles up 11 with 53 seconds remaining in the half.

UNC gets back in game with quick TD drive to open half

The Tar Heels couldn’t get back into the game before half, as Travis Jay broke up a Hail Mary attempt, but they came out of the locker room with urgency. After FSU’s offense went three-and-out to start the half, Howell led North Carolina on a seven-play touchdown drive. The Tar Heels moved into FSU territory as the QB connected with Downs for a gain of 21. Ty Chandler then picked up 13 on the ground. The drive was capped with a 21-yard TD connection from Howell to Kamari Morales. The TD cut FSU’s lead to four early in the second half.

‘Noles respond with back-to-back TD drives, open 18-point lead behind Travis’ dynamic play

Despite UNC’s quick start to the second half, the Seminoles wouldn’t be deterred. FSU’s next two offensive drives went for 14 plays, 158 yards, and 14 points. Travis found a wide open Helton deep down field for a 44-yard gain on the second play of FSU’s drive following the UNC touchdown. A roughing the passer penalty pushed the Seminoles into the red-zone. A strong Corbin run pushed the ball to UNC’s one. Travis capped the drive with a QB sneak into the end-zone.

UNC picked up a quick first down on the following drive, but a couple big plays from FSU’s defensive line forced the drive to stall. Jermaine Johnson stuffed a run on first down, before Keir Thomas chased Howell out of bounds on third down to force a punt.

Ward picked up 30 yards on the ground over the first two plays of Florida State’s next drive. On third-and-12, Travis avoided the rush and rolled to his left before side-arming a pass to Helton. Helton showed off some toe-drag swag on the sideline to haul in a crucial 18-yard catch for a first down. Travis then found McDonald on a tight end screen for a 16-yard pick up. On second-and-goal, the QB found Wilson in the corner of the end-zone for their second touchdown connection of the night. The score put FSU up 35-17 with just a minute remaining in the third quarter.

Knowles comes up with PBU on fourth and goal

The Tar Heels were still in the game, but had to have a score to begin the fourth quarter to stay in the game. Howell pushed UNC into FSU’s red-zone on a 28-yard pitch-and-catch with Bryson Nesbit. Fabien Lovett made back-to-back run stuffs to bring up third-and-goal. A throw away brought up fourth-and-goal from the five. Howell was pressured out of the pocket and looked to find Josh Downs in the corner of the end-zone. Freshman Kevin Knowles dove to knock down the pass and end the hopes of a UNC comeback.

FSU notables

Travis: 11-13, 145 yards, 3 TD, 14 attempts, 121 yards, 2 TD

Helton: 3 rec, 71 yards

Ward: 12 attempts, 77 yards

Wilson: 3 rec, 38 yards, 2 TD

Robinson: 12 tot tkl, 1 PBU

Johnson: 6 tot tkl, 1 sack, 1 TFL

Jones: 3 tot tkl, 1 INT, 1 PBU

Up next: The Seminoles are off next weekend before returning to Doak Campbell Stadium for a non-conference matchup vs. UMass.