GAINESVILLE — A flurry of interceptions gave helped Florida State halt drives and create opportunities for the offense. The Gators often showed their offensive ineptitude but also capitalized on an FSU mistake.
Jordan Travis and Treshaun Ward had touchdown runs but Ontaria Wilson’s muffed punt proved costly and gave the Gators a short field and a touchdown as Florida defeated FSU 24-21 on Saturday afternoon.
The Seminoles had a chance late. Travis led FSU down the field on a 16-play, 92-yard drive that finished with Travis’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Ontaria Wilson. That cut the deficit to 24-21 with 49 seconds to go, but Parker Grothaus just nicked the onside kick attempt and UF was able to take the victory formation to finish off the victory.
“We’re all hurting,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “I hate that it’s the last game, but I told them ‘thank you.’ I told them how grateful I was for what they invested throughout this year. This year, for the rest of their lives, will be a lesson and experience they can refer back to. In life, you’re going to get knocked down sometimes, and you’re going to find challenging situations. You’re maybe going to have everything stacked against you. But if you continue to work, continue to invest, you work to do things the right way, it’ll once again prove what you can do and can overcome. I just told them how grateful I was for the experience, for the example.
“Some guys played their last game as Florida State Seminoles. I’m so grateful for all that they did, for the leaders that they were. They were tremendous. We’ve got a young football team, a team we’ll be able to look back at this game, and there’s going to be a dozen-plus plays, that if any one of them goes differently, it’s going to be a different outcome. But that’s reality.”
Jammie Robinson, Jarvis Brownlee and Kalen DeLoach had interceptions in the first half, halting promising Florida drives. Robinson’s pick came in the end zone, just a minute before halftime and kept the Seminoles in a 7-7 tie at the break.
Travis had a 9-yard touchdown run to cap a seven-play, 68-yard drive in the second quarter that tied the game up at 7. But the Seminoles otherwise punted five times and were intercepted twice and couldn’t find the end zone again until Treshaun Ward’s 19-yard TD run in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to 24-14 with 9:46 to go.
FSU (5-7) suffered its fourth straight losing season. It’s uncertain if FSU administrators could apply for a waiver to go to a bowl with five wins, although that seems unlikely.
Travis completed 6 of 6 passes for 64 yards in the first half and also ran seven times for 48 yards. He spent some time in the injury tent and in the locker room in the first half with what appeared to be a right arm/shoulder injury.
McKenzie Milton and Tate Rodemaker each were 1 for 2. Milton finished out a drive after Travis was injured, with Milton getting good protection in a rolling pocket but he tossed a costly interception. Rodemaker had a drive but nothing materialized.
Travis returned to the game, showing heart and the desire to run despite the injury, but he also was intercepted on a poorly-thrown third-quarter deep pass that was intended for Andrew Parchment. It was the first interception thrown by Travis in November.
He was 18 of 29 for 202 yards on Saturday and ran 17 times for 102 yards, the majority of FSU’s 145 rushing yards. Travis has 1,357 rushing yards, 19th in ACC history for career rushing yards by a quarterback.
Five chunk plays generated 120 passing yards — a 17-yarder to Ja’Khi Douglas, a 26-yarder to Andrew Parchment, a 36-yarder to Ontaria Wilson, a 23-yarder to Douglas and an 18-yarder to Parchment. All five were thrown by Travis.
Of FSU’s seven chunk runs, six were by Travis (13, 15, 12, 16 and 34). Lawrance Toafili had a 16-yard run, and Treshaun Ward had a 19-yard touchdown run.
Florida was able to drive seemingly at will for three quarters and converted 11 of 19 third-down opportunities, but Jones’ interceptions halted any chance for the Gators to pull away. Jones was replaced by Anthony Richardson at the half
FSU had interceptions on UF’s last three drives of the first half. All three takeaways came on the FSU end of the field. The Seminoles have 16 takeaways in the last eight games.
Jermaine Johnson sacked Richardson in the third quarter, giving him 12 for the season and putting him in the top 10 on FSU’s single-season sack list. Johnson is now ninth all-time, tied with Jamal Reynolds (2000) and Ron Simmons (1977).
After UF recovered a fumbled punt at FSU’s 33, the Gators converted on a few third downs — including a third-and-5 pass for a touchdown from Richardson to Justin Shorter to put UF up 17-7. Dameon Pierce added a 3-yard touchdown with 12:36 to go that gave the Gators a 24-7 lead.
Robinson had 18 tackles, including six solos. He also had 1.5 tackles for loss.
D.J. Lundy had nine tackles and a pass breakup.
Alex Mastromanno had six punts for a 39.2-yard average. One punt was shanked but he later had a 62-yarder and another that was downed at the UF 1. Mastromanno has 92 straight punts without a touchback, a streak that dates to his first game against Georgia Tech in 2020.
Wilson’s fumbled punt return, a punt that sent him backpedaling to be in position to catch, was a critical point.
Darion Williamson was ejected for targeting on punt coverage.
UF’s Chris Howard made a 36-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter.
FSU was penalized nine times for 89 yards. Florida was penalized 13 times for 107 yards.
The announced attendance at the Swamp on Saturday was 88,491.
This was the first FSU-Florida game since 2014 that was decided by less than a touchdown.
Scouts from the Jacksonville Jaguars and a few CFL teams were in attendance.