Florida State concluded an 11-1 regular season by defeating arch-rival Florida for the sixth time in seven years, 33-21 at Florida Field. The victory came before a state record 85,507 fans and ended the Gators' 23 game winning streak at "the Swamp".
Charlie Ward led the Tribe offensive assault and put his signature on the Heisman Trophy by piling up 475 yards of total offense. The senior All-American completed an FSU record 38 passes in 53 attempts for 446 yards and four touchdowns. He finished his career with 19 FSU passing and total offense records.
Ward opened the scoring on the second Seminole drive of the day. The Tribe went 57 yards in 11 plays and scored when a scrambling Ward found a leaping Tamarick Vanover from five yards out. Ward completed 7 of 9 passes during the drive.
The Seminoles opened a 10-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. Freshman kicker Scott Bentley knocked home a 23 yard field goal to cap a 13 play, 72 yard FSU march.
After the defense stuffed the Gators again, Florida State embarked on another long drive. This one covered 70 yards in 14 plays, but again the Tribe could squeeze only three points out of it. Bentley's 22 yard field goal made it 13-0 with 7:20 to go in the first half.
Florida answered on its next possession. Danny Wuerffel hit Willie Jackson with an 11 yard scoring pass to cut the FSU lead to 13-7.
After the teams traded punts, the Seminoles had one more chance to put points on the board before intermission. But after moving 30 yards to the Gator 36, Bentley's 53 yard field goal was partially blocked by Kevin Carter on the final play of the first half.
Florida State got the ball to open the second half and took advantage of it. Ward completed 5 of 7 passes for 62 yards, including a 7 yard touchdown strike to Kez McCorvey, giving the Tribe a 20-7 lead.
The Seminoles' next drive was stopped when Ward threw an interception in the endzone. But FSU freshman cornerback James Colzie's first collegiate interception gave the Seminoles the ball at the UF 35. From there, Ward hit Kevin Knox for 18 yards, then McCorvey for 16 and a touchdown to stake the Tribe to a 27-7 lead after three quarters.
The Gators would not go away that easily. Terry Dean moved Florida down the field on its next possession, hitting Willie Jackson with a 13 yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 27-13.
Florida State looked like it would seal the win the next time it got the ball. FSU drove 57 yards to the Gator nine, but William Floyd fumbled and Lawrence Wright recovered to stop the scoring threat.
The Gators then cut the lead to 27-21, driving 94 yards in just under three minutes. After several fourth down conversions, Jack Jackson scored on a juggling 31 yard reception with 5:52 remaining in the game.
With momentum on the Gators' side and the Florida crowd deafening, Ward hooked up with his roommate for the play of the game. After his first two passes were batted down, Ward faced third and 10 from his own 21. On the play action fake, Ward eluded a pair of defenders as he rolled to his left, then lofted a soft toss toward Warrick Dunn on the left sideline. The freshman caught the ball in stride, picked up a key block from Vanover and raced down the sidelines for a 79 yard score and a 33-21 FSU lead.
The Florida State defense returned to its early season form, sacking Gator quarterbacks six times and stuffing the Florida rushing game. The Gators were held to minus 33 yards on the ground, an FSU record, and All-America running back Errict Rhett was limited to just seven yards on seven carries.
FSU would beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 18-16, and capture their first National Championship.