November 29, 2003 - by
Seminoles Rally Past Gators, 38-34

Nov 29, 2003

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AP Sports Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla.P.K. Sam ran a twisting, whirling, falling-down pass route for a 52-yard touchdown that lifted Florida State to a 38-34 victory over Florida on Saturday, a spectacular game that was marred by a brawl at midfield after the game ended.

Sam’s catch with 55 seconds remaining pushed No. 9 Florida State (10-2) to the 10-win plateau for the first time since 2000. No. 11 Florida (8-4) had its five-game winning streak halted, along with any hopes of sneaking into the Southeastern Conference title game.

The last touchdown, the third TD throw of the day for Chris Rix, was a thrilling climax to a game that had a bit of everything – great plays and back-and-forth scoring.

The lead changed hands four times in the fourth quarter. With 2:55 left, Florida went ahead 34-31 on Ben Troupe’s 26-yard touchdown catch from Chris Leak in the back of the end zone. Troupe got one foot down; the official stared hard at the play, and initially brought his arms to the side, as though he were going to call it incomplete. But he raised his hands to signal a touchdown.

Indeed, it was a barnburner, a game that will be debated and rehashed for years to come, although there’s no changing the result now. The Seminoles defeated their archrivals for the fifth time in six years. They are ACC champions and will go into their BCS bowl on a high.

The Gators, meanwhile, won’t make it to the SEC title game next week. Tennessee’s win over Kentucky made it almost impossible, and Florida’s loss itself ended all hope. The honor, instead, will officially go to Georgia on Sunday. Florida still has a chance to make it to Atlanta, on Jan. 2, if Peach Bowl representatives offer them a bid, as expected.

Whatever their bowl, the Gators will have more than a month to stew over this heartbreaking loss.

Chris Rix leaps high into the air after scoring against Florida during the fourth quarter.

Who were the stars? It’s hard to list them all.

For FSU, Rix threw for 256 yards on only 19 attempts. Dominic Robinson caught five passes for 102 yards, nicely filling the hole left when leading receiver Craphonso Thorpe was lost for the year earlier this month. Linebacker Pat Watkins returned a fumble 25 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 24 late in the third quarter.

Florida had its share of great performances, too. Troupe caught two touchdowns and finished with 121 yards receiving. Leak threw for 273 yards and caught a 30-yard pass from Andre Caldwell, one of several Florida gadget plays that worked. Cornerback Keiwan Ratliff basically sealed his All-American status, scooping a fumble and going 77 yards for his fourth touchdown of the season and a 24-17 lead.

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