52 weeks ago, Jimbo Fisher led FSU to a win in Gainesville, his fourth in a row over Florida, but then, left Tallahassee in an ugly desertion for Texas A&M.
52 weeks ago, the Gators had already fired Jim McElwain, and with the loss to the Seminioles at home, concluded a humbling 4-7 season.
What a difference 52 weeks in rebuilding for both.
This as the Gators dominant and convincing 41 – 14 demolition of rival Florida State showed just how much farther along Florida is in that process.
In almost any aspect of this decisive win that you looked, Florida was better.
Better at running the ball? Yep.
282 yards on the ground and 5.4 yards per attempt was basically the difference in the game. A big part of that was Lamical Perine, who finished with 128 yards and and ripped off a 74-yard run to give the Gators an early 10 – 0 lead.
However, both Jordan Scarlett who averaged 4.4 yards per carry with 88 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Felipe Franks who had another 46 yards and a 3.8 average, were also effective throughout the game.
The Gators knew coming in that Florida State’s defense was vulnerable and Coach Dan Mullen and his staff exploited it especially with the read option and slashing off-tackle runs.
Were the Gators the more disciplined team? You bet.
Of course it doesn’t take much to be more disciplined in the Seminoles, who were the worst team in the ACC and one of the bottom 10 teams in all of FBS football, the number of penalties in yardage per game. And just as they’ve done all year, Florida State had costly penalties at the absolute wrong time.
This included the nullification of a huge early second quarter 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Deondre Francois to running back Cam Akers, because of an illegal shift. Something that Florida state did twice more later in the game. Thus proving they haven’t learned all season, or even in the same game, how to line up and move correctly.
The next costly self-inflicted penalty was against the first drive of the second half for Florida. With FSU still in the game down 13 to 7, they stopped the Gators on 3rd and 7 at their 10-yard line and apparently forced a field goal attempt. However, defensive back Stanford Samuels III ended up getting a personal foul for unnecessary roughness for taking a swing at Florida receiver Van Jefferson, while the two were locked up and the play was well over. That 15-yard penalty gave the Gators an automatic first down and two plays later Franks hit Josh Hammond with a 3-yard touchdown to push the lead 20 to 7.
Florida really never looked back from there.
The Gators and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham repeatedly dialed up stunts and blitzes, as the second half went on that confused a beleaguered Florida State offensive line. Florida defensive lineman Jachai Polite had 2.5 of their five sacks on the day and had another 3.5 tackles for loss. Florida was clearly well prepared to handle anything the Noles were going to try to throw at them with drop backs or read options of their own.
In the end, the Gators snapped a five-game losing streak to their arch-rival. It has to sweet for Dan Mullen, got his first win as a head coach in Gainesville at the expense of the other coach making his debut, Willie Taggart.
Florida can also take consolation that the loss ended Florida State’s 41 year run of having winning seasons (now 5-7) dating back to 1977. The Noles will also be left out of a bowl game for the first time in 37 years.
Yes, it was a humbling Saturday for sure for Florida State and their fans, as they realize just how far they have to go to get back to where Florida, who finished the regular season 9-3 already is now and rebuilding.