Although Thanksgiving was just two days ago, there were plenty of turnovers leftover as evident in Florida State’s 38-22 victory over Florida.
The game was as advertised in the first half with the defenses stealing the show. Florida State had three takeaways which resulted in 21 of its 24 first half points. Levonta Taylor had two interceptions, the first two of his career, including a pick-six that put the Seminoles up 24-7. It was only the second time all season UF starting quarterback Feleipe Franks threw multiple interceptions in a game.
That wasn’t the only defensive touchdown in the first half as sophomore defensive end Brian Burns forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Jacob Pugh. Burns had a phenomenal opening half which included two tackles for loss, two pass break ups, a sack and that forced fumble.
The two first half defensive touchdowns equalled FSU’s total since the beginning of the 2016 season.
Florida got on the scoreboard early on a fortunate interception. Blackman’s pass to Auden Tate was deflected into the air and ended up in the hands of an orange uniform just 24 yards from the end zone. It’s other score came on a drive to end the opening half that included three third or fourth down conversions.
The score may have not been the same had it not been for that excellent FSU defense. The offense had just 109 yards on 4.2 yards per play. On the other side, UF was held to 3.7 yards per play in the first 30 minutes.
The Florida State offensive woes continued to begin the second half with the ’Noles going three-and-out on its first two possessions. The only reason its third drive lasted more than three plays was a roughing the passer penalty called on a third down James Blackman incompletion.
With 5:52 remaining in the third quarter, a 45-yard field goal cut FSU’s lead to a one possession 24-16 score. UF had great field possession due to Dontavious Jackson committing two different personal foul penalties on the initial punt leading to his ejection.
Fortunately for FSU, those would be the only points scored all frame. The teams entered the fourth quarter with that 24-16 margin in favor of the Seminoles.
Although the Florida State offense still could not get going, it was consistently aided by Gator penalties. In the second half alone, Florida committed three penalties for 35 yards, giving FSU countless opportunities to extend its lead.
The ’Noles finally got the job done early in the fourth quarter after a 39-yard pass to Ermon Lane set up a Cam Akers 10-yard rushing touchdown, his longest of the day. Florida State went up 25-16 with just 11 minutes remaining in the contest.
With the Gators needing momentum, Matthew Thomas intercepted Franks’ first pass attempt on the ensuing drive and looked to be heading toward the end zone, however fell down at the one-yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the senior would put FSU back at the 16-yard line.
A third and 14 conversion later, the Seminoles still found itself in the end zone after a diving catch from Auden Tate on third down. Those two third down conversions were as many as Florida State had on its prior 10 attempts.
It would stay 38-16 until Florida scored with 38 seconds remaining.
James Blackman finished his first Florida-Florida State game with 128 passing yards on 10-21 and two touchdowns. Jacques Patrick had a team high 67 rushing yards and three completions.
UF was held to just 3.25 yards per play on 64 total plays before its final garbage time drive. Leading FSU defensively was Matthew Thomas with eight tackles, 1.5 for loss, and an interception. Derrick Nnadi added 1.5 tackles for loss.
The Seminoles will look for that elusive sixth victory next Saturday as they play host to ULM.