TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Ticker) -- It had been a while since Bobby Bowden was able to enjoy a game like this. It had been a while since he had a quarterback like this.
Adrian McPherson three four touchdown passes, three to Anquan Boldin, as 15th-ranked Florida State buried North Carolina, 40-14, in an Atlantic Coast Conference mismatch.
It was the third straight win for the Seminoles (8-3, 7-0 ACC), who earned at least a share of the conference title for the 10th time in 11 seasons.
It hasn't been the best season for Florida State, which lost three of four games before its previous run to drop the perennial top-five team to 20th in the country.
"This was the first time we could get ahead and I could sit back and know that we have got the game," said Bowden, Florida State's venerable coach.
Bowden's team appears to be headed to a Bowl Championship Series game, although Maryland could take the spot if Florida State slips. The Seminoles finish the regular season with games against NC State and Florida.
The Tar Heels (2-9, 0-7) remained tied for last in the ACC with Duke - next week's opponent - after losing their sixth straight overall.
"This is very, very difficult for us right now," North Carolina coach John Bunting said. "We have got to find a way to get ready to play next week against Duke.
Despite playing without two of their starting offensive linemen and running back Greg Jones, the Seminoles improved to 12-1-1 in the all-time series, 7-0-1 in Tallahassee.
Starting his third straight game in place of an ineffective Chris Rix, McPherson ignored North Carolina's blitzing defense, completing 15-of-30 passes for 237 yards and running for another 46 on 11 carries.
"The thing I liked about AD today is that he ran better," Bowden said. "He was kind of a dangerous runner tonight instead of slipping and sliding. That was encouraging."
In his three starts, McPherson has thrown for 654 yards and eight touchdowns. Rix has passed for 1,375 yards and 10 scores in eight starts, but there is one big difference between the two.
"There is a lack of turnovers (now)," Bowden said.
McPherson also has been able to do what Rix could not, form some chemistry with Boldin, the explosive wideout who caught five passes for 104 yards. His TDs were from 43, 19 and four yards.
"I think the last time I did that was in high school," said Boldin, who has 10 touchdown grabs this season after tearing an ACL in 2001.
Florida State took a while to get going, opening the scoring on Beitia's 47-yard field goal 4:34 into the second quarter. Boldin then had TD catches of 43 and 19 yards for a 17-0 halftime lead.
"Last year, we said that Anquan was our playmaker, then we lost him," Bowden said. "He is still our playmaker. We just have to get him the ball more because he does something with it."
McPherson threw a pair of touchdown passes in a 2:20 span of the third quarter to make it 33-7. After throwing a four-yarder to Boldin, he found Gardner from 20 yards.
Gardner finished with six catches for 96 yards. Thorpe added another three grabs for 74 yards.
"I'll tell you one thing, there are some awesome athletes out there on that field for Florida State," Bunting said.
The Tar Heels finished the scoring with 40 seconds left, when Baker threw a 14-yard TD pass to Rumley. Baker went 3-of-9 for 55 yards in place of C.J. Stephens, who completed 16-of-40 passes for 175 yards