GAINESVILLE — There would be no storybook ending to a nightmare season for the Florida seniors, who said all last week a victory over rival Florida State would help ease the pain of this bitterly disappointing season.
Instead, they walked off Florida Field one final time with a loss.
FSU turned three interceptions into 21 points, which was all it needed for a 21-7 victory in front of 90,798 on Saturday night.
It was only the third win for FSU (8-4) in Gainesville since 1993 and ended Florida's 25-game home win streak against non-SEC opponents.
Florida (6-6) finished with six regular-season losses for the first time since 1979, when it went 0-10-1. First-year coach Will Muschamp said his team isn't tough enough.
"We're a soft football team. That's the bottom line," Muschamp said. "I told our guys we're not a physically tough team, and we're not a mentally tough team. Self-evaluation is hard sometimes, but that's the facts. It's hard to say it. I've been called a lot of things in my life, but soft is not one of them."
Before the Gators lost the game, they lost their senior starting quarterback, John Brantley. With just less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Brantley was sandwiched while being tackled and left the field disoriented. He did not return, and freshman Jacoby Brissett took over.
Before his departure Brantley was 9-of-15 for 104 yards and three interceptions. The three picks matched his season high.
Even before Saturday, it had been a tough season for the Gators. But losing to the Seminoles added insult to injury.
"It's very frustrating losing to a rival," junior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "We felt like we made a lot of mistakes ourselves and beat ourselves in the end."
While the Florida defense held the Seminoles to 95 total yards, the offensive mistakes took a toll. Brantley was intercepted by cornerback Greg Reid 5:40 into the game. Seven plays and 20 yards later, Devonta Freeman's 1-yard touchdown run gave FSU a 7-0 lead. Cornerback Mike Harris returned Brantley's second interception 89 yards to set up another 1-yard run by Freeman that made it 14-0.
The Seminoles took a three-touchdown lead when safety Terrance Parks returned an interception by Brissett 29 yards with 12:20 remaining in the game.
"I am very excited, very happy," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, now 2-0 against Florida. "We came in here to win, and it hasn't happened very often. I understand we have a lot of issues. But we got the win, and that is a great accomplishment."
The Gators knew coming in they would have to have success running the ball to have a chance to win.
They had just 54 yards. Their top rushers, seniors Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, had four carries for minus-8 yards and 15 for 42, respectively.
"At the end of the day, when you're not able to run the football, you're going to have a hard time winning games against good defenses," Muschamp said. "When you become a one-dimensional team, when you're a lateral running team and you can't run the ball inside and you can't run the ball vertically at people, you're going to struggle."
The Gators' only touchdown came off an FSU turnover. The 6-yard pass from Brissett to Quinton Dunbar with 4:16 remaining averted Florida's first shutout since 1988.
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.