'Noles top Gators, capture state title
QB E.J. Manuel (US Presswire)
QB E.J. Manuel (US Presswire)
Special to NoleDigest.com
Posted Nov 27, 2011


Florida State couldn't muster so much as 100 yards of total offense Saturday vs. Florida, but the defense shut down the Gators and forced four turnovers in a 21-7 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida quarterback John Brantley finished the worst game of his career in the locker room.

Brantley threw three interceptions, two of which led to Florida State touchdowns, and was later knocked out of the game with an apparent concussion. His mistakes and his injury keyed Florida State's 21-7 victory Saturday night, the Seminoles' first win in Gainesville since 2003.

''I hurt for him,'' Gators coach Will Muschamp said. ''Whenever you see someone struggle to finish or not to finish the game, especially if they're a senior and it's their last game, it's hard.''

Florida outgained Florida State 184-95. But the scoreboard is all that matters in a series that used to be one of the most respected in college football.

Now, though, the rivalry has devolved into a battle for bragging rights and talk about a mythical state championship. The latest matchup was the first time since 1986 that neither team was ranked.

And both teams looked the part.

What may have seemed like great defense was really just pathetic offense. There were poor passes, blown blocking assignments and strange play calls.

The oddest play of the night came on a fourth-and-inches play in the second quarter. With Brantley struggling, the Gators (6-6) lined up Trey Burton at quarterback and ran him into Florida State's vaunted front. Burton was stuffed, then tried to reverse field and make something happen. He ended up losing 14 yards.

''It is what it is. What can you say?'' Florida linebacker Jon Bostic said. ''We have to work on everything. ... Obviously, the outcome shows it. We have to get better. That's the main thing.''

The Seminoles (8-4) were inept most of the night, but they took advantage of Brantley's first-half mistakes and later knocked him out for good. It was the difference in an offensively ugly game that had as many punts (18) as first downs.

''Our defense played unbelievable,'' FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. ''That was one of the best defensive efforts I've seen in my 23 years.''

The `Noles sealed their second consecutive win in the series when Terrance Parks intercepted Jacoby Brissett's pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 29 yards for a score, which sent many of the 90,798 on hand scrambling for the exits.

The Gators avoided their first shutout since 1988 when Brissett hit Quinton Dunbar for a 6-yard score with 4:16 remaining.

''It's very frustrating,'' Florida defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. ''We feel like we could have won that game. Not to say they didn't do anything to beat us, but we felt like we made a lot of mistakes ourselves and beat ourselves.''

Muschamp called his team soft after the game.

''It falls on one guy's shoulders, and that's mine,'' Muschamp said. ''It's going to get corrected, and we're going to be fine. We've got a good, young, solid football team. I know everybody's frustrated. I get that, I really do. I'm frustrated, too, more than you guys are, more than anybody sitting in that stadium. ... I know patience is a bad, bad word. I'm not asking for it. I also think you've got to be realistic. When you have an education, you have to be realistic some days.''

Realistically, Florida's shot ended with Brantley's injury.

He was sandwiched between two defenders as he released a pass late in the second quarter and sustained an apparent concussion. He stayed on the ground, slipped off his helmet and eventually walked off the field with help from trainers. He was on the receiving end of helmet-to-helmet contact, which also caused bleeding to his left cheek.

Brissett replaced Brantley and did little to rally the Gators from a 14-point deficit.

Brantley completed 9 of 15 passes for 104 yards, with three interceptions. Brissett was 4 of 13 for 27 yards and an interception.

E.J. Manuel wasn't much better for Florida State. He was 6 of 13 for 65 yards and sacked four times on a mostly miserable night in which the Seminoles managed seven first downs.

''We thought we might have to throw a shutout to get a win,'' FSU defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. ''We were disappointed they got the one score on us. Our offense just wasn't moving the ball tonight, so we had to step it up big on defense. This was, by far, our best defensive effort of the year.''



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