No. 6 Florida rolls over No. 10 Seminoles
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn't have any doubt where his team's next stop should be: Miami for the BCS championship game on Jan. 7.
And the sixth-ranked Gators made a strong case for consideration Saturday by crushing archrival Florida State.
Mike Gillislee ran for two touchdowns, and Florida scored 24 straight points in a span of less than nine minutes in the fourth quarter to keep its national title hopes alive with a convincing 37-26 win over the 10th-ranked Seminoles.
“We have a really tough football team,” Muschamp said he left the field for Florida's locker room. “We should be playing for the national championship.”
Florida (11-1) came into the game fourth in the BCS standings and could have found itself in position to earn a spot in the national championship game if No. 1 Notre Dame lost to Southern California late Saturday. The Gators' lone loss, in late October to third-ranked Georgia, will keep them out of the SEC title game.
“Hopefully we can sneak in,” said Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. “We're a resilient team.”
He's not likely to get any argument from Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who hoped a victory over the Gators would not only persuade pollsters that the Seminoles belonged among the elite but also win positive attention for the ACC.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage up front,” Fisher said. “They have a very good team. They did a great job.”
The game matching two of the nation's best defenses went back and forth, with the Seminoles (10-2) scoring 20 unanswered points to take a 20-13 lead late in the third quarter. They wouldn't score again until the final play of the game and victory out of reach.
“Our guys understand that it's about all 60 minutes,” Muschamp said. “We just really needed to be patient and wear them down.”
Did they ever.
Florida regained the lead for keeps at 23-20 on Gillislee's 37-yard run with 11:01 left in the final period on the first play after Florida State's EJ Manuel fumbled, his fourth turnover of the game. Gillislee finished with 140 yards rushing, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Florida State (10-2) was hurt by five turnovers. The Seminoles will play Georgia Tech next week in the ACC title game.
The Seminoles had been so dominant at home, outscoring opponents, 324-54, in six previous games.
Florida, not known for its offense, rushed for 244 of its 394 yards against the nation's top-ranked defense, which has benefited from a comparatively weak schedule.
And it was that schedule and a 17-16 loss at North Carolina State last month that has provoked questions about how good the Seminoles were. They couldn't capitalize on the opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.
Florida State scored 20 straight points to wipe out an early 13-0 deficit. But by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, FSU seemed to wear down and Florida rolled right into the middle of the national championship conversation.
Florida salted its victory away on Driskel's 14-yard TD throw to Quinton Dunbar with seven minutes left and Matt Jones' 32-yard run for a 37-20 lead with 2:33 left.
“We're better than them,” Florida nose guard Omar Hunter said. “You have to finish the game. The fourth quarter, that's the most important quarter.”