Dramatic Tar Heels stun Florida State on last-second field goal

One week after scoring the winning touchdown with just two seconds left on the clock, UNC took things all the way down to the wire this time for a 37-35 victory that ended the Seminoles 22-game home winning streak at Doak Campbell Stadium

Melina Vastola—USA Today Sports
Oct 1

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Football is a game of statistics, but as North Carolina coach Larry Fedora pointed out after his team’s narrow victory against Pittsburgh last week, the only number that matters is the final score. — And it doesn’t matter how that number comes about as long as your team scores one more point than it gives up. — Fedora’s Tar Heels accomplished that goal again Saturday at Florida State, again by the slimmest of margins. — One week after scoring the winning touchdown with just two seconds left on the clock, UNC took things all the way down to the wire this time for a 37-35 victory that ended the Seminoles’ 22-game home winning streak at Doak Campbell Stadium. — Nick Weiler kicked a career-long 54-yard field goal as time expired to provide the improbably decisive margin to give the Tar Heels by far the biggest and most important triumph of Fedora’s five-year tenure in Chapel Hill. — “We came down here, we prepared and planned to win. We just didn’t know how we were going to do it,” UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky said after leading his second consecutive clutch game-winning drive. “It doesn’t matter as long as you get it done and I’m so proud of this team how we stuck together at the end.” — The Tar Heels (4-1, 2-0 ACC) appeared to have let an entire afternoon of good work go out the window by allowing FSU to drive 75 yards on nine plays in the final 2½ minutes to take its first lead of the game. — It was almost a carbon copy of the scenario that worked in UNC’s favor last Saturday. The only difference is that this time, the Seminoles (3-2, 0-2) left too much time on the clock. — In retrospect, it turned out to be a blessing that both Mikey Bart and Malik Carney missed tackles on FSU quarterback Deondre Francois on his two-yard touchdown run that gave his team a 35-34 lead. Had it taken the Seminoles one more play to score, the Tar Heels might not have had enough time to mount their winning rally. — As it is, they had 23 seconds left after a touchback gave them possession at their own 25. — “We didn’t want to waste any time on the kick return. We wanted to make sure the offense had all 23 seconds,” said Ryan Switzer, who followed up his school-record 16-catch effort against Pitt with 14 receptions for 158 yards Saturday. “Everyone felt like we had the plays and the play calling to get it in Nick’s range. We had two timeouts, the clock stops on first downs … all we needed was three (plays).” — That’s exactly how many plays it took. — The first was a 23-yard strike across the middle to Mack Hollins. Then, after Switzer nearly hauled in a pass that just eluded his lunging fingertips, Trubisky targeted Hollins again. This time, UNC got the benefit of a pass interference call on FSU’s Tarvarus McFadden to put the ball at the Seminoles 37. — “The drive before that, Fedora asked me what the distance was, what range I had and I told him 35-yard line,” said Weiler, whose blocked extra point attempt on that previous possession helped lead to the Tar Heels’ late one-point deficit. “I was just hoping the offense would give me a chance to redeem myself.” — Though Weiler’s previous career long was 49 yards earlier this season at Illinois, Fedora said he never hesitated sending his kicker out onto the field with four seconds left instead of trying a Hail Mary into the end zone. — Weiler had earlier missed from 51 yards on Saturday, only in the opposite direction. — “I knew it was within his distance,” Fedora said. “That wasn’t the issue. He was due. He had something to prove. We knew we had to get it close to the 35 to give him a shot. The guys got it done.” — They did it with a balance of running and passing and an uncanny knack for converting third downs. T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood led a rushing attack that produced 133 yards and helped ease the pressure on Trubisky, who completed 31 of 38 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. They were 9 of 13 on third down while holding the Seminoles to just 4 of 11. — But as good as the Tar Heels looked at times, they still tried to make things difficult on themselves. — Their 21-7 halftime lead could easily have been been bigger had Hood not gotten stopped on fourth-and-one in the first quarter and then fumbled the ball away at the FSU 3-yard line just before the break. UNC also let the Seminoles off the hook when after nearly getting a safety on a Carney sack of Francois, they roughed the punter to allow the opposition to extend a possession that eventually ended in a touchdown. — “That was very frustrating,” said linebacker Cole Holcomb, UNC’s leading tackler with 13. “We can’t keep leaving it to the offense to bail us out. We know we need to pick it up.” — And yet, even on a day in which some of the statistics were unsightly — including 595 yards allowed, 140 yards rushing and 106 receiving by running back Dalvin Cook alone, a turnover margin deficit and a three-touchdown lead squandered — the Tar Heels still found a way to score one more point than they allowed. — Or in this case, two more points. — “You go on the road and beat the No. 12 team in the country and they had a 22-game home win streak, that’s pretty dang good,” Fedora said. “I would say that so far, this 2016 team has done some good things.”