Florida St. 36 \ N. Carolina 13 \
On a day when quarterback Charlie Ward proved only human, his Florida State supporting cast surpassed North Carolina's best effort by more than three touchdowns.
The final count was 36-13 in a game that Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden graciously described as ``closer than the score indicated.'The Tar Heels' offense was simply overmatched against Florida State's quick, veteran defense. And on a bad day for Ward, Bowden turned to razzle-dazzle plays to exploit the superior speed of his skill players.
``I'm proud of our team's effort, but we gave up too many big plays and Florida state has the best defense I've ever coached against,' said UNC coach Mack Brown.
Although Carolina never led, the Tar Heels still were in the game until a sequence late in the second quarter left practically no doubt to the outcome.
Trailing 16-7 after a 37-yard field goal by FSU's Dan Mowrey, Randy Jordan's 40-yard kickoff return gave the Heels excellent field position at their own 47-yard line.
After two running plays, Carolina faced a third-and-inches situation at the FSU 44.
Then, 237-pound fullback Mike Faulkerson was swarmed by the Seminole defense before he hit the middle of the line. On fourth-and-inches, Brown chose to go for it up the middle with 230-pound tailback Natrone Means carrying the ball. Same result.
``If you can't make a first down in that situation, you're not going to win,' said Brown. ``I felt we had to go for it on fourth down to send a message, but I didn't want to go outside because their defense is even quicker out there.'
Carolina's offensive line, which did a good job of neutralizing All-America linebacker Marvin Jones, broke down on the two short-yardage plays and never solved Florida State's blitzes.
``They just beat us off the ball, filled the gaps and got penetration,' said guard Ethan Albright. ``We were wedge-blocking, and their speed enabled them to make the plays from outside.'
On the first play after Carolina turned over the ball, FSU tailback Sean Jackson took off on what looked like a sweep, then stopped and heaved a 46-yard pass to freshman sensation Tamerick Vanover. The play carried FSU to the Carolina 10, and two plays later, the Seminoles had a comfortable 22-7 lead.
Florida State added two more touchdowns while UNC settled for a couple of field goals.
Carolina's unusually aggressive defense was a factor in Ward's subpar performance. He passed for just 87 yards and netted only 9 rushing as Bowden benched him temporarily in favor of true freshman Danny Kanell during the second quarter.
``I really don't know what happened to Charlie today, but that first half scared me to death,' said Bowden.
``The good news is that Kanell played well. My coaches wanted to go back with him in the second half, but I said no. We've got to play at Georgia Tech next week in a very big game. I told them if Charlie's having problems, he needed to work them out today.
``I'm hoping this was just an off day for him. If it wasn't, Kanell will be playing a lot more.'
Under those circumstances, Bowden reached into his bag of plays and turned Carolina's defensive aggressiveness against the Tar Heels. He did it with misdirection plays such as the halfback pass, naked bootlegs and reverses.
``We had to overpursue because their skill players are so fast,' said UNC linebacker Tommy Thigpen. ``We knew they had those misdirection plays, but we couldn't stop them because we were overpursuing.'
FSU took a 13-0 lead almost before the sellout crowd of 60,553 settled into the seats at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Seminoles drove 49 yards in 11 plays after receiving the opening kickoff. Then Corey Sawyer, the heir apparent to Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley, caught UNC's first punt, found a lane along the sideline, juked punter Mike Thomas and completed a 74-yard touchdown return.