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Florida Gators rout FSU to snap five-game losing streak to rival Seminoles

UF had a lot to celebrate, including a potential spot in a New Year's Six bowl and the end of FSU's bowl streak.
The Florida Gators' Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had a lot to celebrate Saturday in a blowout rout of Florida State. [ BRONTE WITTPENN | Times ]
Published Nov. 24, 2018
Updated Nov. 24, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — In the fourth quarter of No. 13 Florida's 41-14 demolition of Florida State, Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson scanned the opposing line of scrimmage and saw something weird.

He counted only 10 players. So he turned to the Seminoles' sideline and started teasing his rivals.

"How y'all think y'all can come beat us, but y'all not prepared?" Gardner-Johnson yelled. "You've got to be prepared with all 11 guys."

Ten, 11, 12. It wouldn't have mattered at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The Gators are back on top in this series. And considering the struggles in Miami and the injury to UCF star quarterback McKenzie Milton, they might be back on top of the state, too.

"If we played the game again," Gardner-Johnson said, "it would be the same results again and again and again."

It's hard to argue with him after watching UF (9-3) reverse a one-sided series and end FSU's NCAA-record 36-year bowl streak. The Gators dominated almost everything.

They controlled the line of scrimmage.

The Seminoles (5-7) gave up eight tackles for a loss and committed three false start penalties. UF defensive end Jachai Polite amassed 2 ½ sacks (including a strip-sack) to push his season total to 11, tied for the fifth best year in program history.

The Gators' offensive line paved the way for 282 rushing yards —more than double FSU's 139. Seventy-four of UF's yards came on an early touchdown run by Lamical Perine; it was the Gators' longest in six years.

UF quarterback Feleipe Franks outplayed FSU's Deondre Francois. Franks had one of the best rushing games of his career (12 carries, 46 yards) and completed 16 of his 26 passes for 254 yards. The three-touchdown performance was his fourth of the season. The last UF quarterback to do that was Tim Tebow in 2008.

"I know it's tough to play quarterback at the University of Florida," UF coach Dan Mullen said. "And everybody's got pretty high standards. But first year in this system, as a sophomore, he's put up some pretty good numbers this year."

UF's defense hounded Francois most of the day, racking up five sacks and recording two interceptions to keep the 'Noles from coming close to a comeback.

And, yes, UF lined up properly. The Seminoles didn't on that fourth-quarter play, or when they were flagged for an illegal shift that negated a would-be Cam Akers touchdown.

One of the only things that went wrong for the Gators came after the game, when they tried (and failed) to plant their plant their flag on the Seminoles' logo. Alas, UF had to savor the victory differently. Receiver Trevon Grimes stood on the bench and conducted the visiting fans in an orange-blue cheer. Gardner-Johnson did snow angels in the end zone. Tight end C'yontai Lewis cried.

The Gators might still have one more thing to celebrate. The win bolsters their case for a trip to a prestigious New Year's Six bowl (likely the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl).

"I think we deserve to be in the conversation for it," Mullen said.

Those conversations can wait for another day. For UF, Saturday was about the claim at state supremacy and the end of two streaks —one that showed the Gators are on their way back to national prominence and another that shows how far their rival is from joining them.

"We weren't worried about this game," Gardner-Johnson said. "We knew we were the better team. We knew they were the most undisciplined team in America, so we were just going to take advantage of every little opportunity we had."

Except for having the extra man in the fourth quarter. Gardner-Johnson made his opponents aware of that one, and an FSU receiver trotted back on.

It didn't matter. Francois' pass fell incomplete.

The Gators' domination continued.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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