Florida State defensive back Terrence Brooks sits dejected in the closing seconds of the Seminoles’ game Saturday against rival Florida in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida beat Florida State, 37-26.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Despite a first half in which nothing went right for Florida State, the No. 10 Seminoles found themselves in control early in the fourth quarter, inching toward a third straight victory over No. 4 Florida.
Then in one moment, one hit, it all unraveled.
With less than 13 minutes to play Saturday, Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison laid a thundering lick on Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel, forcing a fumble that Dominique Easley recovered for the Gators.
On the next play, Mike Gillislee ran 37 yards for touchdown and Florida scored 24 consecutive points to beat the Seminoles 37-26 at Doak Campbell Stadium.
“I think that was kind of the culmination of our football season,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said. “Very fitting fashion.”
Muschamp, who evened his record against FSU to 1-1, then praised Morrison, a reserve player who was thrust into action after an injury to starter Jelani Jenkins.
“Antonio’s a violent, physical football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy that knocks the ball off a lot of people.”
Florida State turned the ball over five times, four by Manuel, who threw three interceptions and had the big fumble.
Manuel, who missed a series after Morrison’s big hit, ran 22 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the game.
After the game, Manuel said he’d had the wind knocked out of him but that he also was hit in the head.
“Not one of his more stellar performances,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We have to do a better job of coaching him. … He was very emotional before the game and I think he wanted to play well very badly.
“Sometimes you try too hard.”
The Gators (12-1) dominated for much of the two quarters and were unfortunate not to lead by more than 13-3 at halftime.
Florida possessed the ball for 21:58 in the first half but had only two field goals by Caleb Sturgis and Gillislee’s 9-yard touchdown run to show for it.
Dustin Hopkins’ 50-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter appeared innocuous, but it started a run of 20 consecutive points by Florida State.
The Seminoles had the ball and momentum when Morrison jarred the fumble loose. After Gillislee’s go-ahead touchdown, backup Clint Trickett entered the game but could muster no more than a three-and-out.
“That game was all momentum,” Fisher said. “ … We changed it and they got momentum back in the fourth quarter -- and we still had opportunities.”
Florida’s Marcus Roberson returned the ensuing punt to Florida State’s 29-yard line, and five plays later Jeff Driskel threw his only touchdown pass, a 14-yarder to Quinton Dunbar that effectively sealed the victory.
Using a variety of short and intermediate passes, Driskel completed 15 of 24 for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Florida touched up Florida State for 243 yards on the ground, led by Gillislee’s 140 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Jones added another 81 yards and a touchdown.
With their sixth 11-1 start in the books, the Gators were holding out hope to be in the national-championship conversation.
Florida owns three victories over teams ranked in the top 10 of the Bowl Championship Series standings.
NOTES: Florida’s 37 points matched the most that FSU has allowed this season. … The victory marked Florida’s eighth come-from-behind victory of the season and its third in the foruth quarter. … Gillislee became the first Florida running back to reach the 1,000-yard plateau since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. … Fisher suffered his first loss to one of FSU’s rivals, Florida and Miami, since taking over in 2010. FSU is 5-1 against the two under Fisher. … Junior defensive end Bjoern Werner of Florida State had 2 1/2 sacks, giving him 12 in 2012 with two games remaining. Werner’s season is the seventh best all time at Florida State. … Dustin Hopkins’ 53-yard field goal gave him 87 for his career, a number that tied Georgia’s Billy Bennett for the most field goals in Football Bowl Subdivision history. … Rodney Smith had a four-yard reception in the second quarter for Florida State, extending his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 37 games, one shy of the school record.