It has been a rough road for Anquan Boldin.
He spent the offseason rehabbing a torn left ACL. Upon his return he found himself in the middle of a talented group of receivers group that made playing time a hot commodity, especially when FSU chose a more traditional two-back offense featuring Greg Jones.
Then once the season began there were sophomore quarterback Chris Rix's inconsistencies and the switch to freshman Adrian McPherson.
All this in a season that was supposed to propel Boldin into the NFL with the size, speed and skill that he had not fully shown until Saturday night against North Carolina, when he caught 5 passes for 105 yards and 3 touchdowns.
"I always knew he could do this," said receiver Talman Gardner, who was the last Seminole wideout to have a three touchdown day, against Maryland on Oct. 27, 2001. "It's just him doing his thing and putting it all together."
After his knee injury Boldin lost some of the speed that kept safeties on their heels, but his first touchdown was an education in acceleration.
Boldin caught a quick out from McPherson at the UNC 36-yard line, spun out of a chest-high tackle attempt by Derrick Johnson and streaked downfield.
Boldin outran five defenders for FSU's first touchdown.
"I tried to set the safety up," Boldin said. "I saw him coming at me on an angle so I gave him a little move and then just outran everybody else."
It was the explosive move Boldin showed frequently as a freshman and the big-play ability FSU didn't have last season.
"After Pete (Warrick) left we saw Boldin as the next gamebreaker," coach Bobby Bowden said. "We needed game-breaking people and when we lost him it really hurt us."
Boldin was in the end zone again six minutes later, this time beating Kevin Knight. At the snap Boldin gave a little shoulder shake and a glimpse of an outside move before cutting inside of Knight, who bit on Boldin's fake.
McPherson almost overthrew Boldin, but the junior from Pahokee leapt and stretched out for the ball.
"I don't know if this game was a statement maker, but I just want to capitalize on the opportunities that the coaches are giving me," Boldin said. "They told me that I had to go out and win my matchups and that's what I tried to do today."
Boldin's first two touchdown catches came when UNC blitzed McPherson and had man coverage on Boldin, a tactic he hopes to see more.
"They gave us a lot of one-on-one coverage," Boldin said. "We take pride that FSU receivers can't be covered one-on-one."
The third touchdown was the type Boldin always could make using his 6-foot-2, 226-pound frame. With the Seminoles at the UNC 4, Boldin ran an out, muscled the defensive back off the pattern and caught a quick strike from McPherson.
More than his stats, what matters to Boldin, his coaches and ultimately his opponents is that the flash and dash are back.
"I feel like I'm getting stronger as the season goes along," Boldin said. "I've been rehabbing through the season and it's coming along pretty good. I feel I can still play better."