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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC football stunned by Florida State for second straight year in 35-25 loss


FSU sophomore defensive back Jarrian Jones (7) intercepts a long pass intended for UNC sophomore wide receiver Khafre Brown (1) during the Tar Heels' home football matchup in Kenan Memorial Stadium on Oct. 9, 2021, against the Florida State Seminoles. FSU won 35-25. 

The North Carolina football team (3-3, 2-3 ACC) lost to Florida State (2-4, 2-2 ACC), 35-25, in Kenan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

What happened?

The Tar Heels started with possession, and graduate transfer Ty Chandler set the pace with an 11-yard rush. That was followed by a pair of receptions from senior wide receivers Josh Downs and Antoine Green that advanced UNC past midfield. After being stopped on Florida State’s 34-yard line, graduate kicker Grayson Atkins nailed a 51-yard field goal to draw first blood.

The UNC defense came out strong, allowing zero offensive yards and forcing the Seminoles to go three and out in their first drive. The offense proceeded to march down the field, powered by three big scrambles from junior quarterback Sam Howell that combined for 30 yards. Then, Howell connected in the end zone with sophomore wide receiver Josh Downs for a 33-yard touchdown, putting UNC up 10-0.

Florida State responded with a long offensive drive of its own – 12 plays over seven minutes of game time – that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass from Seminole quarterback Jordan Travis to receiver Malik McClain. Travis struck again minutes later, breaking away for a 53-yard touchdown run to give his team a 14-10 lead.

UNC advanced to Florida State’s 30-yard line as Howell continued to make big plays on his feet, but the drive was stopped after a pass intended for sophomore receiver Khafre Brown was intercepted in the end zone. The Seminoles capitalized on the turnover with another touchdown, when Travis connected with Ontaria Wilson to take an 11-point lead that held until the half.

In their first drive of the second half, Howell and the offense raced down the field en route to a 21-yard touchdown reception by sophomore tight end Kamari Morales. The scoring drive spanned 70 yards in just over three minutes of game time and brought the Tar Heels within four.

However, Florida State followed that up with a touchdown drive that took only two minutes, thanks in large part to a 44-yard reception from receiver Keyshawn Helton. Travis snuck into the endzone to bring his team’s lead back up to 11 points. The game continued to spiral out of control for UNC as Travis connected with Wilson in the end zone again before the end of the third quarter.

Chandler ran in a touchdown with 2:47 remaining in the game, and senior wide receiver Antoine Green hauled in a reception for the two-point conversion, but it was too little too late for the Tar Heels.

Who stood out? 

Travis was effective as a passer, but he excelled on his feet this game. The Tar Heels have notably struggled to contain dual-threat quarterbacks, and it was no different on Saturday, as Travis finished with 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Howell also impressed with his running ability, picking up 108 yards on the ground.

Downs continued to shine as Howell’s number one option, hauling in nine receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. It was Downs’ fourth game this season with over 100 receiving yards and his sixth straight with eight or more receptions.

When was it decided?

Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, UNC’s offense made its way to the Florida State five-yard line but turned the ball over after failing to convert on fourth down. The risky move didn’t pay off, and essentially ended all hopes of a comeback victory.

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels had hoped to capitalize on the momentum from their big 38-7 victory over Duke last weekend. That didn’t pan out, as the defense simply collapsed, allowing five touchdowns and failing to contain the quarterback run.

Now halfway through the season with a 3-3 record, the former preseason darlings may now have to start worrying about reaching the bowl-eligible mark of six wins.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will welcome the Miami Hurricanes to Chapel Hill next Saturday for a 3:30 kickoff.

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@DTHSports | 

Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.