It was a matchup for the ages, one that went down to the wire on a drive filled with penalties and unnerving plays that could have led to an even more dramatic finish in Tallahassee. With Florida driving in search of the tying score, the defense held strong and won the State of Florida in victory formation.
“What a game. That's what this game is supposed to be; energy, passion, incredible energy, and all of our fans. That was an unbelievable environment,” head coach Mike Norvell said after the game.
The Seminoles got the ball first and after a few runs, they found themselves in third and long. Wide receiver Pokey Wilson was stripped giving UF the ball at mid-field.
Florida State’s defense would go on to force the Gators into a fourth down and DE Jared Verse along with DB Renardo Green stopped UF’s effort causing a turnover on downs.
Explosive could be one word used to describe RB Trey Benson as he delivered a massive stiff arm on UF DB Kamari Wilson during a 45-yard run. Benson would go on to score the next play giving the Noles their first lead of the night.
Special teams have been a strong suit for FSU all season but after a huge return by UF RB Trevor Ettiene, the Gators struck back with a 52-yard touchdown of their own.
There was a key 4th down play in which it was a little too far to kick a field goal and a little too close to punt. The Noles elected to go for it but could not convert giving the Gators a starting field position at the 37-yard line. FSU’s defense gave up its second touchdown of the game to Jonathan Odom who walked into the end zone.
The defense looked a little lost in the first quarter with blown coverages and an inability to stop UF’s run game.
Travis finally got the offense into a rhythm with big passes to Johnny Wilson and Kentron Poitier but showed off his mobility on a 29-yard touchdown run. The defense followed with defensive back Jarrion Jones picking off Richardson.
It seemed like the Florida defense had an answer for the motion sweeps all night and was keying in on whoever was taking snaps out of the backfield. In an attempt to break the tie, K Ryan Fitzgerald missed a field goal from 37 yards.
Pearsall had four receptions for 139 yards in the middle of the second quarter and seemed to have found a chink in the defense’s armor. The secondary could not hold up giving up an easy 43-yard touchdown to give the Gators the lead, 21-14.
Travis went on to find success with Benson in the passing game but closing out the half was all on Travis’ legs. Scrambling from the one yard line for a score. he finished the half completing seven of 19 passes for 149 yards with 59 yards on the ground and two scores.
The Seminole defense could not find an answer for the Gator rushing attack and the offensive line double teams. During the entire first half, they were only able to stop UF three times and could not get off the field on third down. UF was able to convert 5 of 7 third downs and would go into the half up 24-21 after a 41-yard field goal from Adam Mihalek.
On the other end of the ball, wide receiver drops plagued the offense in critical moments.
- Passing - Jordan Travis (7-19, 149 yards)
- Rushing - Trey Benson (8 rushes for 63 yards, one touchdown)
- Receiving - Trey Benson ( two catches, 51 yards)
- Tackles - Jammie Robinson (9 total, 5 solo)
Coming out of the half, the defense forced a much-needed three-and-out by applying pressure on Richardson and forcing early throws. Robinson and Verse teamed up to get to Richardson and it seemed some much-needed adjustments were made in the locker room
Florida State was able to tie the game with a 46-yard field goal by Fitzgerald after stalling out inside the red zone. The Noles would go on to another quick red zone trip and, led by a 46-yard catch from WR Malik McClain (the longest of the season for him), Benson was able to punch it in giving the Noles the lead 31-24.
The atmosphere and the intensity of the game seemed to get to the Gators late in the third quarter with both sides of the ball making key mistakes. Two massive penalties put the Noles at the six-yard line. An easy quick route to WR Kentron Poitier put six more on the board.
The Gators responded with a drive of their own by getting Richardson the ball on the ground. Aided by a few penalties from the Seminole defense, they were able to score from the two-yard line. The drive went for 13 plays and took 6:53 off the clock.
With the third quarter going seemingly in favor of the Noles, the fourth tested the Seminoles’ grit when UF tried to close the lead. On a massive third down for the defense, Ettiene was able to cruise by an already gassed FSU defense to tie the game at 38. 7:41 remained on the clock.
Travis was able to find Wilson on another crucial third down to help move the Noles across midfield. Wilson’s big catch after dropping a few earlier was game-changing. Showing off his legs again, Travis was able to pull it for 10 after his 25-yard run was reversed. Benson would get those yards back on the next play, catching the edge; a play that the Gators had been stopping all night. He would score on his next touch and broke 100 yards rushing for the night.
A critical penalty on 4th and 18 gave the Gators some life with a minute and a half left in the game. Penalties in critical moments have put the defense in terrible positions and kept UF in the game longer than they should have been. The defense would end up prevailing by staving off the Gator's final drive. DE Jared Verse was able to apply enough pressure aided by DE Derrick McLendon helping stop the run and on 4th down, Robinson flushed Richardson forcing an incompletion to seal the game.
Florida State will now turn its attention to its bowl game after ending its regular season with five straight wins.
“To be able to finish up as state champs, I’m so proud of our guys,” Norvell said. “What a memorable way to be able to go out — those (seniors) were able to set the foundation... This is just the beginning.”
End of Game Stats
- Passing - Jordan Travis (13-30, 270 yards, one touchdown)
- Rushing - Trey Benson (20 rushes for 111 yards, three touchdowns)
- Receiving - Kentron Poitier (three catches, 37 yards, one touchdown)
- Tackles - Jammie Robinson (11 total, three solo)
Game notes, via FSU Sports Info
- No. 16 Florida State beat Florida 45-38 to win its 15th state championship all-time and first since 2016. In the past 30 seasons, dating back to 1993, Florida State has swept the other two “Big 3” Florida schools in the same season 11 times, while Miami has four state sweeps and Florida has two.
- FSU’s win evens the all-time series with Florida in Tallahassee, 14-14-1.
- Florida State improved to 2-0 against the SEC this season (W vs. LSU). The Seminoles are responsible for two of the SEC’s seven non-conference losses this season and are the first team with two non-conference wins over the SEC in the same season since Clemson defeated Texas A&M and South Carolina in 2019.
- Mike Norvell is now 20-5 (.800) in the month of November as head coach, including a perfect 4-0 this year.
- The Noles extended their winning streak to five games, the team’s longest since ending 2016 with five straight wins.
- The Noles 45 points were FSU’s most in the series since 1992 (and tied for 2nd most); and 497 yards of total offense are FSU’s most in the series since racking up 519 in the 31-31 tie in 1994.
- FSU has scored at least 38 points in five straight games, FSU’s longest streak since 11 straight games to start the 2013 season.
- For the sixth straigh game, quarterback Jordan Travis accounted for at least three touchdowns and one or fewer turnovers. That is the longest stretch in FSU history and is the longest active streak in the country.
- Travis finished the game with 270 passing yards on just 13 completions with one touchdown and added 83 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
- Travis now ranks 9th in school history with 24 rushing touchdowns and is tied for 10th with 43 passing touchdowns, the only player in the Top 10 of both. On FSU’s singleseason lists, Travis ranks 10th in total offense with 3,163 yards; 14th with 22 touchdown passes and 2,796 passing yards; and 19th with 199 completions.
- FSU rushed for 227 yards, the Noles seventh straight game crossing the 200-yard barrier. That is the longest streak in the country this season, and the longest for FSU since 1987 (also seven straight).
- Running back Trey Benson ran 20 times for 111 yards, with a career-high three rushing touchdowns. He is the first Seminole since 2020 with three rushing touchdowns in a game and now leads FSU with nine this season. Benson is 17th in single-season rushing yards with 965 and 18th in single-season touchdown runs. Benson also led FSU with 51 receiving yards on two catches, with a career-long of 34 yards. Benson’s catches were on back-to-back plays in the second quarter.
- Benson has five 100-yard games this season, the most for a Seminole since Cam Akers had six in 2019.
- For the second straight week, the Seminoles had two players score multiple touchdowns on the ground. Before last week, FSU had not had two players with multiple rushing touchdowns in a game since 2017.
- Florida State entered Friday leading the country with 80 plays of 20 or more yards and added eight more against the Gators, including Travis’ 29-yard touchdown run. Benson had FSU’s longest run of the game (45 yards), while Travis and Malik McClain connected on a 44-yard pass, the longest reception for the Seminoles and McClain’s longest of the season.
- FSU outscored the Gators 17-0 in the third quarter and held Florida to (-2) yards and three three-and-outs on their first three possessions of the second half.
- Jarrian Jones grabbed his second career interception to start the second quarter. FSU has at least one takeaway in four straight games and seven total in that span.
- Linebacker Tatum Bethune led the Seminoles with 11 tackles, his 10th career double-digit game and third this year.
- Safety Jammie Robinson finished with 10 tackles, including nine in the first half. In his last two games against the Gators, Robinson has 28 tackles. Robinson has 12 career double-digit tackle games - most on the team - and has 306 for his career.
- Florida State has scored on 17 of its 24 first drives in a half this season after a Ryan Fitzgerald field goal to start the second half — Fitzgerald’s field goal was from 46 yards, his second-longest of the season
- Derrick McLendon and Shyheim Brown combined on FSU’s lone sack, and McLendon is now third on the team with 3.5 this season — Brown made the second start of his career and tied his career-high with seven tackles
- Kentron Poitier caught a six-yard touchdown, his fourth of the season and one behind Johnny Wilson for the team receiving lead.