FSU blanks Heels, 37-0

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Pre-game hopes were at a fever pitch, Kenan Stadium was nearly full, and the field had never looked better. But moments into the second quarter, Florida State held a 21-point lead, and had effectively taken the crowd out of the game before it could become a factor.

(Andy: Back to the Drawing Board - Locker Room Report - Bunting PC - Photos I - Photos II - Box Score)

The Seminoles (1-0, 1-0 ACC) went on to a 37-0 shutout victory in a game that was never in doubt.

The Tar Heels' 41-9 victory over FSU in 2001 appears now to have been an isolated instance, as the Seminoles have outscored UNC 77-14 since then, and extended their lead in the series to 13-1-1.

"I'm proud of the way the guys came in here," FSU quarterback Chris Rix said. "They remembered."

North Carolina (0-1, 0-1 ACC) has now dropped seven straight home games.

"The most important thing was that we won, and the second most important thing was that we shut them out," FSU head coach Bobby Bowden said. "We played a game last year where we had Iowa State down 31-0 at the half and they came out and put up 31 points on us in the second half. I was afraid that might happen again."

However Bowden's fears proved unnecessary, as Carolina's best highlights on the night were of classic moments from the past, which occasionally played on UNC's brand new Jumbotron.

This was an embarrassing loss that wiped out any chance of early season momentum.

"The team that we played has some awesome players," UNC head coach John Bunting said. "I don't think our players gave in at all. They have the kind of players that I want to recruit. I've got a few like they have and we're working towards that goal."

Unlike in 2001, the Seminoles came out throwing the football to start the game. It proved to be a successful decoy, as during FSU's second possession, the Tar Heels were served a heavy dose of senior running back Greg Jones.

In just its first 12 plays, Florida State had already accrued seven first downs.

For the game, Lorenzo Booker's 87 yards led a balanced Seminoles' rushing attack that put up 269 yards on 42 carries.

"My expectations for myself are very high," Booker said. "I did all right, but I have a lot of work to do to get better. Our offensive line did a great job."

After a Carolina three-and-out, Rix scored from the 1, subsequent to a 43-yard pass he completed to Willie Reed. The Seminoles had struck quickly for their second touchdown, driving three plays on 74 yards.

"They had a couple of explosion plays," UNC free safety Dexter Reid said. "I don't think they sustained any long drives on us other than maybe one 80-yard drive."

But down just 14-0, the Tar Heels appeared to be coming together offensively, and had moved from its own 20-yard line down to the FSU 34.

Enter reliable Dan Orner, whose 51-yard field goal attempt was just wide, and the Seminoles' offense went right back to work.

"They drove the ball on us and we couldn't answer with those first offensive opportunities that we had," UNC offensive tackle Jeb Terry said. "They got up on us 21-0 and it was devastating.

"I know all those [FSU] guys are back on defense and the scoreboard showed it."

Orner, who was 9-of-14 in 2002, including three from over 50 yards at Syracuse and the game-winner versus Duke, then missed a 37-yard attempt in what was the Tar Heels' best offensive penetration of the game to that point.

Carolina had just missed scoring a touchdown when wide receiver Chris Curry couldn't hold on to quarterback Darian Durant's pass in the back of the end zone.

That set up Orner's second miss.

"I'm sure he's disappointed," Bunting said. "He's a guy who has kicked very well. He won at least two games for us last year. I expect that he will bounce right back. He works as hard as anybody on our team."

On the next FSU possession, Booker's 21-yard touchdown run capped a six-play 66-yard drive. Just seven seconds into the second quarter Florida State led 21-0.

It looked like the Seminoles' fourth scoring drive might stall facing a third-and-10 at the UNC 40-yard line. But a pass interference call against the Tar Heels kept the FSU drive alive. Five plays later, Florida State extended its lead to 27-0 on Rix's second one-yard rushing touchdown with 1:08 left in the first half.

The Seminoles brash junior quarterback was outstanding, going 17-for-26 with 232 yards passing and a touchdown to go with his two rushing scores.

"We exceeded expectations," Rix said. "We were efficient moving the ball downfield for the most part. We have a ways to go, but I'm proud of the way the guys did for the first game."

On the point after touchdown attempt, UNC defensive tackle Jonas Seawright broke through the Seminoles' offensive line to block Xavier Beitia's PAT attempt – halting the All-America kicker's streak of 74 consecutive extra points.

But despite the goose egg on the scoreboard, Carolina was successful moving the football – especially through the air. And the turnover bugaboo, which plagued the Tar Heels in their last two season openers, did not rear its ugly head at all in the opening stanza.

In fact, the first turnover of the game occurred in the third quarter, when linebacker Doug Justice tackled FSU wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe on a crossing pattern. The ball came lose and defensive end Madison Hedgecock recovered the fumble.

Except for two critical pass interference penalties, UNC played relatively error-free football for the first 30 minutes.

In a game that featured few positives for the Tar Heels, Durant played almost flawlessly until, in the third quarter, he tried to find Jawarski Pollock in double coverage. The play resulted in a Florida State touchback, but Durant's passes were crisp and his decision-making was sound for the most part. He was 18-for-31 for 145 yards passing, despite the fact his receivers dropped several passes.

After suffering a thigh cramp at the start of the fourth quarter, Durant gave way to backup C.J. Stephens.

"We moved the ball consistently, but we couldn't get it in the end zone," Durant said. "It's not like we went out and didn't move the ball at all. We saw what we can do on offense and we'll build on that.

"They didn't stop us as much as we stopped ourselves."

Carolina did manage to accumulate 295 yards of total offense against the veteran Seminoles' defense.

And with the offense still trying to find its rushing identity, freshman tailback Ronnie McGill had the most success of any of UNC's ball carriers. He ran for 49 yards on 12 rushes – more attempts than any other Tar Heel back.

"I was very happy with Ronnie McGill," Bunting said. "He is very strong and he sees things. He's going to have the chance to be a 1,000-yard rusher for us."

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