Florida State Seminoles football and the Florida Gators faced off Saturday with not just bragging rights, but bowl eligibility on the line. The stakes were a far cry from the championship title-deciding highlights of the series, but still enough to provide some drama and intrigue.
As far as soft factors, from the beginning of the game, Florida seemed to come out with just a bit more energy, perhaps a big energized after the firing of former head coach Dan Mullen. The Gators were able to get into FSU’s head early and often, resulting in mistakes and personal foul penalties that often negated a Florida slip-up.
The turning tide of the game most likely was FSU wide receiver Ontaria Wilson’s muffed punt in the third quarter — not just extending the Gators’ drive but flipping the field for it, leading to a touchdown that pushed Florida ahead by double-digits. FSU then sputtered on its next drive, with Jordan Travis throwing a questionably-ruled interception that set up a nearly 4 minute, 10 play, 68-yard drive for the Gators.
FSU’s defense started strong, but consistent inabilities to stop Florida on third down, a lack of consistent success from the Seminoles’ offense leading to fatigue and a failure to get to the quarterback hampered its ability to be truly dominant.
The Seminoles struggled to find anything on offense in the first half, with Travis missing a significant amount of time with an apparent shoulder injury, though he did rally to come back in the second quarter and finish the game.
FSU found an offensive rhythm late in the fourth quarter, with the Seminoles embarking on a 92-yard drive to make it a one-score game, but took too long to find it. By the time that FSU closed the margin to three points, there were just 49 seconds left on the clock, forcing FSU to attempt an onside kick — one that they didn’t even get to attempt, with kicker Parker Grouthas whiffing on his upswing.
FSU’s season is now over, barring a bowl invite due to a lack of 6-6 teams.