Florida State vs. Florida Score, Takeaways: No. 16 ‘Noles Survive Gators in Rivalry’s Highest Scoring Game

No. 16 Florida State ended a three-game losing streak against rival Florida on Friday night with a dramatic 45-38 win behind quarterback Jordan Travis and a late defensive stand in the final minute of the game. Travis made big plays through the air and ground all night, while the Seminoles defense made a fourth downstop in the last minute as the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium went into a fever pitch.

Gators QB Anthony Richardson’s swell to the end zone fell incomplete with 39 seconds left, flipping the ball on downs to Florida State and effectively ending the highest-scoring game in the rivalry’s storied history. What will be discussed for ages are two plays on the final drive, a fourth-and-eighteenth pass interference against FSU that extended Florida’s comeback attempt, and a clear face mask on Richardson that was not called on the aforementioned incomplete pass.

Richardson threw three touchdowns in the first 21 minutes of the game as the Gators jumped to a 21–14 lead, but the redshirt sophomore later went cold with 11 straight incompletions. The third quarter proved particularly drastic, as Florida State forced three consecutive three-and-outs against a Florida team that failed to punt in the first half.

The win is the first in the rivalry for third-year Florida State coach Mike Norvell, and he credits Travis for that. The redshirt junior threw for 270 yards and a touchdown and ran for another 83 yards and two more scores. Running back Trey Benson added three scores on the ground for the ‘Noles, who improved to 9-3 with the win.

Travis goes wild

In a game packed with momentum swings and highlight plays, Travis’s elusive gait caught the eye a few times. With the Seminoles trailing 21–14 and facing a third-and-ten from Florida’s 11-yard line in the second quarter, it looked like Florida was about to fire Travis for a significant loss. But as Travis retreated 18 yards behind the line of scrimmage, he managed to evade five different Florida defenders, including a few who had more than one chance to take him down. He finally slid down just short of the end zone and scored on the next play.

Then, in the third quarter, Travis replicated the game in an almost identical situation. Facing a third and eleven from the Florida 13 yard line, Travis took off and avoided multiple tacklers before sliding down just short of the goal line. The play gave the Seminoles a first-and-goal and set up a touchdown run from Benson that put FSU ahead 31–24.

While Travis only completed 13 of 30 passes, he also came through with his arm in a key late situation. Facing a third-and-six with the game tied at 38 in the fourth quarter, Travis found Johnny Wilson for a 21-yard completion to extend the drive that led to FSU’s game-winning score.

Closing with a bang

Florida State started 4-0 and moved up to No. 23 in the AP Top 25 in the process. Then adversity came. Amidst a poor run of injuries, the ‘Noles dropped three in a row as pressure began to mount on Norvell. After back-to-back losing seasons to begin his tenure, it looked like they would struggle just to make a bowl game in his third year. But since the bye week, which came after a 34-28 loss to Clemson on Oct. 15, the ‘Noles are a perfect 5-0.

While some of that success has corresponded to a lightening of the schedule, much of it has come in dominant fashion. On Friday, FSU’s four-game winning streak began with four wins of 25 points or more. While the streak of dominance ended with a tight game against the Gators, the Seminoles showed their improvement in a national showcase spot against a bitter rival. A bowl win allows Florida State to finish with 10 wins for the first time since 2016, Jimbo Fisher’s penultimate year as coach.

Missing recipients

Florida wide receivers Ja’Quavion Fraziars, Xzavier Henderson, Justin Shorter, Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Marcus Burke all missed the game due to injury, leaving Richardson with few proven goals in the passing game. In their absence, Richardson only completed passes to three players with a returning Ricky Pearsall as his primary target. The redshirt junior set a new career high for yards receiving when he reeled in a 43-yard touchdown pass with 11:35 left in the second quarter. That was Richardson’s last completion until there were 4 minutes left to play.

Nevertheless, the Gators still managed to recover from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter after a strong running offense. Trevor Etienne totaled 129 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, including a 45-yard touchdown run that tied the game with 7:41 left. Montreal Johnson Jr. added 85 yards and a score on the ground, as Richardson raced to 41 yards. If the Gators can get healthier at receiver for their bowl game, their offense could be much less one-dimensional than it turned out to be for much of Friday’s game.

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