Christian Ponder threw for a career-high 395 yards and three touchdowns to help Florida State rally from a big second-half deficit and beat North Carolina 30-27 on Thursday night.
Rod Owens added career-highs of nine catches for 199 yards, including a 98-yard score, for the Seminoles (3-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed 24-6 early in the third quarter and appeared headed for a fourth straight loss.
Instead, Ponder directed a stunning rally against the nation's third-ranked total defense, including the go-ahead 18-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Beau Reliford with 6:20 to play.
The Tar Heels (4-3, 0-3) still had a chance to tie when they got the ball back with 47 seconds left and no timeouts, but their desperate drive only got to midfield before Markus White sacked T.J. Yates on the final play.
Florida State finished with 438 total yards, the most allowed by North Carolina all season. That came despite the Seminoles generating little on the ground and committing penalty after penalty to force almost the entire burden on Ponder, who responded by completing 33 of 40 passes.
The Tar Heels will be thinking about letting this one get away for a while. It was the first Thursday night home game at North Carolina, which donned all Navy blue uniforms for the first time and brought in former-Tar Heels-turned-NFL stars Julius Peppers and Lawrence Taylor.
Before the season, this looked like a chance for coach Butch Davis to showcase his program to a national TV audience. But after woeful offensive performances in conference losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia, Davis' Tar Heels needed this win to prove to frustrated fans that the rebuilding plan was, in fact, moving forward.
By the end, the Seminoles left Kenan Stadium with a win that could keep some of coach Bobby Bowden's critics quiet for the time being despite the fact Florida State committed 16 penalties for 121 yards, both of which were season-highs.
The Tar Heels had everything in hand, dominating the mistake-prone Seminoles through the first half to take a 17-6 lead _ a margin that could have been even worse had they not had a holding penalty wipe out an 81-yard scoring pass from Yates to Jheranie Boyd.
Yates increased the lead when he rolled left on a keeper and scored from 10 yards out to make it 24-6 with 11:38 left.
The rest of the quarter, however, belonged to the Seminoles.
Ponder connected with Taiwan Easterling for a 6-yard touchdown pass to start the comeback. Then, after Yates threw an interception near the goal line, Ponder lofted the ball deep down the right sideline for Owens, who evaded a diving tackle attempt from behind by Charlie Brown and sprinted to the end zone for the 98-yard score _ the longest play from scrimmage by either side in a North Carolina game _ that made it 24-20 with 4:41 to play in the third.