Just reciting the numbers alone tells the story:
* Yates threw for a UNC school record 439 yards – his fifth career 300-plus yard game and his second 400-plus yard game. The Marietta, Ga. native is the first UNC quarterback to ever have two 400-plus yard passing performances.
* This 439-yard showing and his 412 passing yards against LSU gives Yates the top two passing performances in the ACC this season.
* With the 67-yard touchdown pass to Dwight Jones, Yates notched his seventh completion of the season for more than 50 yards. He has now completed 20 passes of 50 yards or more in his career with 13 of them going for touchdowns.
* Yates’s 439 passing yards were the most against a Florida State team since Danny Wuerfel threw for 443 yards against the Seminoles in 1995.
“T.J. had a phenomenal game,” head coach Butch Davis said.
Even the Florida State players paid homage to the UNC passing attack.
“It’s very frustrating when you can’t stop it,” FSU linebacker Vince Williams said. “You’re wondering what is going on and it’s difficult.”
It wasn’t just a great performance – and the game was far from being just about Yates’s numbers – but it was a winning performance, albeit one that needed a little help from FSU’s storied history of “wide rights.”
Even after the stunning turn of events that put UNC in a one-point hole by way of a botched punt, Yates wasn't fazed.
“We knew we had a lot of time,” Yates said. “There were six minutes left, we knew we couldn’t really be stopped offensively, as far as throwing the ball. We just kept at it, we were kind of on a hot streak with the passing – we did a good job with that and mixed in some runs in there that helped us get down there.”
That drive - 12 plays, 72 yards - will become legendary.
“Probably the single best drive, in my opinion, that our football team has had since I’ve been the football coach here in four years,” Davis said.
It resulted in a field goal to put the Tar Heels back in the lead, 37-35, but there was still time left on the clock. And, typically, Yates was prepared to shoulder the blame for the loss if the 40-yard field goal attempt by Seminole kicker Dustin Hopkins had not have missed the uprights. He was beating himself up over stopping the clock on the third-down before the go-ahead field goal.
“We were just trying to run a “naked” (bootleg), and I made a huge mistake by not staying in-bounds,” Yates said. “We could have knocked off another 20-30 seconds, and it wouldn’t have had to come down to that field goal there at the end. I was pretty upset about that there at the end – if that had meant the game for us I would have took that pretty hard.”
With 55 seconds left, the Seminoles had 55 seconds of clock and two timeouts left to work with, moving down to the 22-yard line, and then took dead aim at a lot North Carolina fans’ hearts – as well as Yates’s.
“Your heart starts to drop when that ball is snapped – you don’t know what is going to happen,” Yates said. “East Carolina (when UNC lost on a last-second field goal in 2007) definitely came into mind, you’re just sitting on the sidelines absolutely helpless… It was awesome. Unfortunately he missed, for himself, it’s big for their program – but I am glad that he missed it.”
There were a lot of UNC heroes this night, including Josh Adams, Dwight Jones and Hunter Furr, John Shoop, and a defense that found a way to stifle FSU in the second half.
But this game belonged to T.J. Yates - and it belongs in the UNC record books.