It wasn't pretty, but the Florida Gators (6-6) took down the Florida State Seminoles (5-7) 24-21 to gain bowl-game eligibility. It will be the fourth year in a row the Gators play in the postseason.
Both the Gators and Seminoles were vying for an opportunity to play in the postseason, a bowl game following the regular season. Florida would come in with some added intrigue, coming into the game without a permanent head coach in the fold after the ousting of Dan Mullen last week.
For Florida, the struggles during the first half showed up again in the second half with redshirt junior QB Emory Jones throwing yet another ill-advised pass that would nearly be picked off. Jones threw three interceptions during the first half of action.
It wouldn't last long, however, as redshirt freshman QB Anthony Richardson would enter the game on the very next play, taking the Gators down to field goal range, able to get the first points of the second half on the board, going up 10-7 against the Seminoles.
Richardson finished the game completing five out of seven of his passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. He'd finish with 11 carries for 27 yards as well.
It would be an incredibly undisciplined start to the second half for both teams.
On the Gators' first drive out of halftime, two players were called for unsportsmanlike penalties, including Florida right tackle Jean Delance.
What was more controversial, however, was the personal foul that offset Delance's. An open-hand punch from Seminoles defensive back Omarion Cooper, who was not ejected for the punch.
The best play of the game thus far for Florida would come with 5:42 remaining in the third quarter.
With Florida backed up near its own goal line, punter Jeremy Crawshaw kicked a boomer of a 60-something yard punt with Ontaria Wilson muffing the punt, allowing Xzavier Henderson to recover it, Florida's second forced turnover of the day.
Settling down, the Florida offense would make good on the turnover their special teams forced with a touchdown toss to receiver Justin Shorter from Richardson.
A perfect toss near the back corner of the end zone. That would make Shorter's third touchdown catch of the season, putting Florida up 17-7 with 2:09 to play in the third quarter.
Simply put, the Gators were the better team today, dominating offensively sans a few ill-advised interceptions during the first half of the contest by Jones. Once Richardson entered the game, it appeared Florida would settle down, able to take advantage of the Seminoles' mistakes.
The best run of the day would come on the back of Gators running back Dameon Pierce who nearly scored a touchdown from eight yards out. He'd lose his helmet on the play, but kept running, a penalty due to player safety. That didn't matter, though, because what Pierce did looked fantastic for anyone watching.
Pierce came into the game as the team's best player on offense this season, running for 6.1 yards per attempt. Getting an opportunity to run 10 times during a game for the first time this season, Pierce would score from three yards out on the same drive from fourth-and-three.
It would be his 12th rushing touchdown of the season, putting the Gators up 24-7 with 12:36 left in the game. With 15 total touchdowns on the year (12 rushing, three receiving), Pierce would have the most touchdowns by a Florida player in a season since Percy Harvin in 2008 with 17.
While the game appeared out of reach even with 12 minutes remaining, the Seminoles made it a game, scoring on their best drive of the game with a 19-yard run by Treshaun Ward who would make it a 10-point game, Florida leading 24-14 with 9:46 remaining.
Needing a stop, the Gators defense would show up, forcing the Seminoles to go three-and-out thanks to the fourth sack of the day for Gators BUCK Brenton Cox Jr. and a great stop by LB Khris Bogle on third down.
The final drive of the game for Florida State would come with plenty of suspense as the Seminoles appeared to score with just over a minute remaining to make the game a three-point contest, 24-21. However, that would be nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty.
The Gators would gift the Seminoles plenty of plays, too. After Avery Helm was called for defensive pass interference earlier in the drive, Cox would be called for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving FSU plenty of opportunities to get a touchdown.
Miraculously, FSU would score a touchdown, a toss from FSU QB Jordan Travis to Wilson, making it a three-point game after all. Unable to hit the football for the onside kick, Florida would win by the slimmest of margins, gaining bowl eligibility.
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