The Florida State defense struggled as a whole for the majority of the Seminoles’ 41-14 heartbreaking loss to Florida. The unit completed the season allowing an average of 31.5 points per game, which is the most in program history.
The Seminoles were able to stop the Gators’ during their first two possessions of the contest. On Florida’s second drive, they decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from the goal line and ’Noles defensive leader of the game, Jaiden Woodbey, started off his massive day making a combined stop with fellow defensive player A.J. Westbrook. Woodbey would end the game with a season-high 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss, his first career sack and 1 QB hurry.
As the first quarter came to end, it quickly went downhill, as the Florida offense seemed to find its rhythm. They targeted the defense’s weak spots and it paid off in their favor. Besides Asante Samuel Jr., who was flying all over the field and providing consistent coverage in the backfield, the Seminoles’ linebackers and safeties allowed the Gators to shine in a spot where they hadn’t all season: explosiveness. During their last drive of the first quarter, UF wide receiver Van Jefferson caught an amazing 39-yard grab from QB Feleipe Franks, victimizing safety Hamsah Nasrildeen in the process. The Seminoles’ defense was able to hold Florida to a 27-yard field goal however, after a pair of tackles for loss by Dontavious Jackson and a QB hurry by Brian Burns ended the Gators drive.
Despite holding the Gators to a field goal, the momentum continued in Florida’s favor and on their first drive of the second quarter, the Gators’ scored their longest rushing touchdown of the season when Lamical Perine rushed for 74-yards. It was also the longest rush that the Seminoles’ defense had allowed all season. The safeties/linebackers continued to be the sore spot as the touchdown run appeared to come at the fault of either A.J. Westbrook or Dontavious Jackson.
Lamical Perine takes it 74 yards to the— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 24, 2018
(via @SECNetwork) pic.twitter.com/HfgIPcBRKH
After forcing a quick three-and-out, the defense was put back onto the field. Safety Stanford Samuels III became the next victim, allowing Franks to complete a pass to WR Trevon Grimes for a 54-yard gain and placing the Gators on the 9-yard line. Defensive end Janarius Robinson turned up the heat and for three consecutive plays recorded a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry forcing the Gators to settle for another field goal.
Despite the Gators having an average starting field position at the 33-yard line, the Seminoles defense held them to only 13 points on eight possessions during the first half.
While Samuels III had an overall abysmal first half missing multiple assignments, the trend continued into the second when Samuels III let his emotions get the best of him after it appeared a Florida player grabbed his face mask. Samuels III responded by throwing a punch and drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty after the Seminoles had just stopped the Gators on 3rd and 7 in the red zone. The penalty gave the Gators a new set of downs on the Florida State 5-yard line and subsequently put them in a position to put seven more points on the board extending their lead. Kyle Meyers would end up replacing Samuels III.
Due to a Deondre Francois fumble, the Gators took over on the Florida State 22-yard line. On the first play, Franks connected with Grimes for another touchdown despite being surrounded by three Seminoles’ secondary. The Gators led 27-14 as they entered the final quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, Franks found Van Jefferson for a 38-yard touchdown breaking Nasrildeen’s ankles in the process.
Van Jefferson just took that poor DBs soul pic.twitter.com/wAsLF5nIaf— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) November 24, 2018
In garbage time, the Seminoles came up with another huge 4th down stop in the end zone, but the Gators were able to put 7 more points on the board and win the game 41-14.