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(Thursday, October 22nd)
Final Score: Florida State 30, North Carolina 27
Chapel Hill, NC (Sports Network) - Christian Ponder threw for a career-high 395 yards and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score to Beau Reliford in the fourth quarter, as Florida State rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat North Carolina, 30-27, at Kenan Stadium.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden was in danger of matching the worst start in his history at the school, but the Seminoles (3-4, 1-3 ACC) came back from a 24-6 hole in the third quarter.
Ponder completed 33-of-40 passes and Rod Owens caught nine balls for 199 yards, including a 98-yard TD in the third quarter. Ponder hit his last 16 passes, throwing for 236 yards and three scores during that span.
"He's probably the most underrated in the country," Bowden said of Ponder. "We talk about the super three (Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy) up there, which they are, but this kid might ought to be sitting up there with them."
Bowden seemed upset by his team's putrid discipline as the Seminoles committed 16 penalties, totaling 121 yards, but FSU snapped a three-game skid.
T.J. Yates connected on 12-of-25 passes for 64 yards with a TD and an interception for the Tar Heels (4-3, 0-3), who lost for the third time in four games. They also fell to 1-15-1 all-time against the Seminoles.
Shaun Draughn rushed for 126 yards in defeat.
"It's just a bad feeling," said UNC linebacker Kevin Reddick. "Like I said, composure. I guess we got too happy when we were up 24-6. We've just got to hold our composure and stay humble."
In the first Thursday night home game in UNC history and with ex-Tar Heel Lawrence Taylor on the sidelines rooting for his alma mater, North Carolina bolted to a big lead, but faltered down the stretch. The Tar Heels gave up 438 total yards.
Yates scored on a 10-yard run less than four minutes into the third quarter before the Seminoles began their comeback. Ponder found Taiwan Easterling over the middle for a six-yard score with over six minutes left in the quarter for a 24-13 FSU deficit.
Jamie Robinson then intercepted a pass, giving FSU the ball just outside its own end zone. On the ensuing play, Ponder's 98-yard TD pass to Owens, who broke free on a fly pattern up the right sideline, tied the longest scoring pass play in Seminoles history, pulling the visitors within 24-20 with 4:41 left.
Dustin Hopkins split the uprights from 40 yards less than three minutes into the fourth for the Seminoles.
Casey Barth broke the string of 17 unanswered FSU points with a 26-yard field goal with nearly 7 1/2 minutes left.
But Ponder drove the Seminoles 63 yards for the winning score, capping the march with an 18-yard pass to Reliford, who was left all alone on the right side of the field and walked into the end zone with 6:20 left.
Both teams then traded punts, but the Tar Heels were left with only 47 seconds left when they got the ball a final time. Yates was sacked in his own territory on the game's last play.
In recent weeks there has been speculation that this would be Bowden's final season, and Thursday's comeback was a welcome sight for the FSU program.
Despite the victory, it's still been a terrible start to the season for Bowden, who was last dealt four consecutive defeats in 1974 when he was the head coach at West Virginia. The Seminoles, who have a streak of 27 straight bowl appearances, haven't lost four in a row since 1975, the year before Bowden took over at FSU.
Greg Little scored on a five-yard run 3 1/2 minutes into the game, but Hopkins drilled a 48-yard field goal with just over five minutes left in the quarter.
Yates threw a 13-yard TD pass to Ed Barham later in the first quarter. It came just two plays after Ponder was sacked and fumbled the ball away.
Barth's 34-yard field goal early in the second pushed the lead to 17-3, but the Seminoles countered with a Hopkins 26-yard boot on the final play of the half. FSU had a 1st-and-goal at the three, but couldn't punch it in the end zone.
"I told the coaches and I also told the players at the half that's the worst half of football I can ever remember," said Bowden. "I've been coaching 55 years. I couldn't believe how we could play so bad. Mistakes, penalties and fumbles, that was the two biggest things, but really it was worse. I told the coaches it was our fault as much as it was the players."
10/23 00:56:29 ET