The Florida Gators went to Tallahassee on a mission to close out the season on a high note and end the five-game losing streak to the rival FSU Seminoles. They did both of those things in dominant fashion with a 41-14 win.
Bailiegh takes a look at her most notable observations from the regular season finale here.
1. The offense came to play
One of the biggest questions coming into the game was how Florida would handle FSU’s defense, especially the tough defensive front. It didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem.
The Gators looked strong on offense from the very start, but just couldn’t finish drives.
Florida marched all the way down the field on the second possession of the game only to come up short on a 4th and goal play. The same thing happened the next possession as Evan McPherson had to kick a field goal from the FSU 10-yard line, and then another from the 6-yard line in the second quarter.
While Florida needed to come away with more than just field goals inside the red zone, it proved it could move the ball.
It all came together in the second half as the Gators went off for 28 more points.
Florida had a balanced attack with 254 yards through the air and another 282 on the ground.
Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett continued to show why they are such a dynamic running back duo. Perine ran for 129 yards and an explosive 74-yard touchdown on 13 carries, while Scarlett had 88 yards on 20 attempts and carried the offense to its final touchdown of the day.
In the passing game, Feleipe Franks had one of his best games of the season, while Trevon Grimes and Van Jefferson were nothing short of spectacular.
The Gators haven’t used Grimes’ skillset nearly enough this season, but after Tyrie Cleveland went down with an injury in the first quarter, he became one of Franks’ favorite targets.
That led to a career high 118 yards and a touchdown on five catches. Jefferson was close behind with four receptions for 92 yards and a score.
Both were outstanding on deep balls from Franks, with a 54-yard reception by Grimes and 39 and 38-yard receptions by Jefferson.
All in all, it was an impressive showing from Florida’s offense, which has made a major turnaround just a couple weeks removed from some serious criticism (and booing) from the fan base.
2. Jachai Polite. The end.
But really, he played like a man amongst boys on Saturday.
Polite went through a patch without much flash late in the season, but he is back. And he is earning every bit of his first-round draft stock.
He and a few of his friends fed on FSU’s offensive line and Deondre Francois all game long.
Polite had 2.5 of Florida’s 5 sacks and added another tackle for loss to his total of 6 tackles on the day.
The real game changer came in the third quarter when he did what he does best and slapped the ball right out of Francois’ hand for a strip sack and his team-best 5th forced fumble of the season. Cece Jefferson recovered the ball in FSU territory to get the offense back on the field for a quick and easy touchdown.
The Gators were in pretty good position already, but it really felt like the start of sending the Seminoles to the point of no return.
Florida will surely miss Polite’s insane ability to come off the edge and affect the quarterback when he is gone.
3. This may be the start of a new era
FSU has had its way with Florida for years now and came into the game confident that it could continue that.
Saturday was a statement from the Gators and possibly a testament to just how far removed the Seminoles are from their days of glory.
FSU proved to still be the same disorganized and undisciplined team it’s been all season under Willie Taggart. The 10 penalties for 60 yards on its own turf were a prime example of that.
On top of that, the Seminoles often struggled to make substitutions and get in the right formations, which are things that can all be traced back to coaching.
FSU had the more talented roster on paper, but it only matters what transfers to the field. And Florida has done that as it finished out a 9-3 regular season with a high likelihood to get into a New Year’s Six bowl game just a year removed from a 4-7 record.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles will not go bowling this season as the Gators got to be the ones to break the streak of 36 consecutive bowl appearances and 41 straight winning seasons for FSU.
The future looks bright in Gainesville. Not so much in Tallahassee.