It just wasn't in the cards for Florida State on Saturday night. The Gators managed to hold off a second-half rally and beat the Seminoles 37-26 after an exciting final 30 minutes.
Florida State fought their way back into the game in the third quarter before fatigue and miscues finally did them in. The Seminoles reeled off 20 unanswered points after going down 13-0 and actually lead 20-13 headed into the 4th quarter. But time of possession, turnovers and luck finally conspired to put the Seminoles away.
You just do not win a football game when the other team holds the ball for twice as long as you did. At the start of the 4th quarter UF already had over 30 minutes of possession and the over the last 15-minutes, fatigue finally started to work its way in.
For all intents and purposes, this game can be divided into two six and a half minute periods.
After going down 13-0 in the first half, FSU reeled off 17 points in six and a half minutes to start the third quarter and go up 17-13. A Dustin Hopkins 53-yard field goal made it 20-13 as UF took over at the end of the third quarter.
Then started UF's six and a half minute response. Starting with a Caleb Sturgis field goal at the beginning of the 4th quarter, UF proceeded to put up two touchdowns of its own after an EJ Manuel fumble and a big punt return set the Gators up with excellent field position on two straight drives.
It took FSU six and a half minutes to come back on UF in the third quarter and it took UF just six and a half minutes to go back up on the 'Noles for good in the 4th.
Give Florida a lot of credit, they played a smart game and took what Florida State gave them. You could tell they were the more battle-tested of the two teams because they knew what to expect from FSU's defense and attacked it right from the outset.
That being said, Florida has arguably the best BCS-resume in the country, but they hardly looked like one of the top two teams in the nation tonight. UF tried their best to give this game away. They made more penalties than any team I've seen come through Doak in years, 11 for 90 yards and that was with a few waved off. If you hold the ball for twice as long as the other team and win the turnover battle 5:1, you shouldn't go into the 4th quarter trailing the ballgame.
Some late scoring will make UF look like they won this game a lot more handily than they really did. Florida State had the Gators on the ropes late and it took a lot for UF to pull this win out.
That had a lot to do with the face that the Seminoles' backs broke in the 4th quarter defensively. After being on the field for most of the game UF scored three late touchdowns and put some distance between themselves and the 'Noles.
Florida may not have had an impressive offense, but they did have the better defensive front. And that made all the difference. Despite a 3.5 sack day from Bjoern Werner, Mike Gillislee ran all over the Seminoles and EJ Manuel was bullied all night.
Now Florida State must turn its attention to Georgia Tech and winning the ACC for the first time in 2005. 12-2 with an Orange Bowl win is the best case scenario for the Seminoles now.
Passing: Jeff Driskel (15/24, 147, TD)
Rushing: Mike Gillislee (24-140, 2TD)
Receiving: Rashad Greene (5-65)
I'm about to head down and talk to a few players and coaches, I'll be back up with the wrap-up later tonight...