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The Daily Tar Heel

Florida State's Jordan Travis out-duels Sam Howell with dual-threat performance

UNC junior quarterback Sam Howell (7) evades a tackle attempt during the second quarter of the Tar Heels' home football matchup in Kenan Stadium on Oct. 9 against the Florida State Seminoles. FSU won 35-25.

Saturday afternoon’s game between North Carolina and Florida State had the potential for another virtuoso performance for junior quarterback Sam Howell going against Seminole quarterback Jordan Travis. Howell helped lead the Tar Heels to a perfect 3-0 record at home this season with his dynamic throwing and running performances.

That perfect home record, however, was smashed in Saturday's game when UNC got a taste of its own medicine.

Travis came into Saturday fresh off of a 113-yard running performance against Syracuse, giving the Seminoles their first win of the season. He also produced two touchdowns in the air for the victory.

And when game time arrived, Travis out-dueled Howell, felling the Tar Heels, 35-25, and all with an offensive scheme run by his own two legs — beating Howell at his own game.

“The quarterback’s kind of like a plus-one guy,” head coach Mack Brown said. “Nobody’s responsible for him. If you take a spy and put him just on the quarterback, it takes him out of your defensive flow and makes it tough for some other things.”

Florida State outscored UNC 21-0 in the second quarter, due in large part to Travis’ control of the offense. The Seminoles cut into their initial 10-point hole once Travis found wide receiver Malik McClain for a five-yard touchdown. 

Following a UNC three-and-out, a 53-yard touchdown from Travis on the third play of the drive gave the Seminoles the lead.

“He’s definitely one of the slimiest, quickest quarterbacks we’ve played since I’ve been here,” senior linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel said.

Howell led the Tar Heels down the field in the ensuing possession, even pulling out an 18-yard run of his own to enter Florida State territory. Just two plays later, though, he lofted a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Jarrian Jones.

The Seminoles scored for a third consecutive possession with the guidance of Travis, this time through the air. He tossed a dime to the streaking Ontaria Wilson for a 32-yard touchdown to complete an 80-yard drive.

The second half was more of the same. Howell helped cut into the lead briefly with a 21-yard touchdown in UNC’s first possession with a play-action pass to sophomore tight end Kamari Morales, but this proved to be the lone score of a short-lived comeback.

“When (Travis) is in the open field, when he’s in the box, he makes really good cuts,” Gemmel said. “He knows how to get the ball out quick ... out of the years I’ve been playing ball, his ability to run the ball, get out of the pocket, scramble around — he does it at a high level.”

Howell never got into a real rhythm against Florida State’s defense. Though he had his moments, the junior quarterback could not take full control of the game beyond the first quarter.

Florida State had its share of long drives throughout the game, with the longest reaching 12 plays and just under seven and a half minutes. This kept Howell and his offense sidelined at times while also facing a growing deficit.

“We still gotta go out there and execute and do our job,” Howell said. “It maybe throws you off a little bit, but you still have the same chance of getting out there and executing your play as called.”

Howell had time to throw for most of the game, and even finished with 100 yards rushing for the third game this year.

The team just could not capitalize on many of its drives, due mainly to penalties that limited North Carolina.

“I think our O-line did a really good job today in both the passing game and the running game,” Howell said. “I just think that we had too many penalties from those guys up front. We have a veteran line, we just gotta play cleaner football.”

Though the team was restricted by some penalties that kept them from ending drives with points, Brown said he thought his star man's performance against Travis was strong.

With both quarterbacks running for more than 100 yards, Howell's ability to move the offense up and down the field would normally spell victory for the Tar Heels — just not on Saturday night.

“He’s tough, he’s competitive, and I liked what I saw,” Brown said. “He kept us in the game with his runs tonight as well.”

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