"This is more like that. I won't say we are back there but this is more like it," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said when asked if his team's effort reminded him of past Seminole teams that were mentioned among the nation's elite.
Still, FSU fans probably can't help but be encouraged by the Seminoles' dominance of the Tar Heels.
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Ten FSU players caught at least one pass and four tailbacks -- Greg Jones, Leon Washington, Lorenzo Booker and Willie Reid, who also played receiver -- combined for 221 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Jones' effort delighted Bowden, who admitted he was concerned about the team's returning leading rusher this preseason following reconstructive knee surgery.
"Greg surprised me because he has not practiced very hard like he did a year ago," Bowden said.
"A year ago he practiced real hard. This year he has kind of controlled himself and not run long in practice like he did last year. I really didn't think he would be in very good shape to play a ballgame. But I saw no affects of it (injury) when he got in the ballgame."
Rix also made an impressive first step, directing the Seminoles' attack with calm precision. When asked if he could smile about his return after being suspended for last year's Sugar Bowl defeat to Georgia, Rix answered, "I think maybe a little grin but not a smile yet.
"I have a ways to go and the team has a ways to go. It's a start. Hopefully, I will be grinning at the end of the season but we have a ways to go. This is just a start. I think we showed tonight what we are capable of doing if we play together and execute on both sides of the ball and for the most part we did that."
FSU's defense pitched its first season-opening shutout since 1993 against Kansas (42-0) in the Kickoff Classic in the Meadowlands.
The Seminoles swarmed UNC quarterback Darian Durant, limiting the reigning ACC passing champion to 145 yards and one interception on a 18-of-31 performance. UNC also was limited to just to 72 net rushing yards Most of the sellout crowd of 59.800 departed at the half as FSU built a 27-0 advantage.
FSU defensive tackle Darnell Dockett helped slow the Tar Heels' attack.
"It felt good, especially what they did to us two years ago," Dockett said of UNC's 41-9 thrashing of FSU at Kenan Stadium in 2001.
"They really embarrassed us up here. We just remembered that walking on the field today. We went out there and played hard. Regardless of what happened, we weren't going to let them score."
Dockett, of course, also served as an inspiration to his teammates. He was selected by Bowden to speak to the team at its pregame dinner Friday night.
""I mostly talked about things that are taken for granted. When things are taken away from you, you feel bad," Dockett said.
"I talked about the incident that I got into and I couldn't play football, I felt like God had taken everything from me. For me to get back on the team, it means more to me than anything right now. I just told guys that a lot of people aren't going to the NFL, so our goal is, when we come out here, is to play hard because anything can be taken away from you in a nick of a second. I think that opened a lot of guys' minds and everyone just kind of reacted off of it.
"Hopefully we can get better."
That was an oft-repeated message following the game as FSU now turns its attention to a wounded Maryland club. The Terps were upset at Northern Illinois in overtime last Thursday.
"I definitely think we made a statement tonight but we got a lot of work to do," said Booker, who rushed for a team-high 87 yards with one touchdown in his collegiate debut after a redshirt season.
"It's only the first game of the season and we have 12 more. We will go in and watch film this week and look at the mistakes that we made and try to go on from there."