Nov. 22, 1997
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Fred Taylor torched the nation’s top rushing defense for 162
yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:50
left, as 10th-ranked Florida salvaged a disappointing season by
knocking off top-ranked Florida State, 32-29.
Linebacker Dwayne Thomas sealed the victory by intercepting Thad
Busby at the Florida State 27-yard line with 61 seconds left.
The Gators (9-2) will not defend their national championship,
but likely took away Florida State’s chance at the title.
“It means they can’t go to the national championship game if I
can’t go,” said Taylor. “That was a nice way to end it in `The
“This was a special one,” said Florida coach Steve Spurrier. “I
had a TV guy tell me that he has never seen so much emotion in a
stadium. Certainly, our fans gave us a chance to win this game.
We weren’t real perfect every time and had some bad plays and
missed kicks, but our kids really fought their hearts out and
hung in there.”
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said his team still has hope
for getting to the Orange Bowl and playing for the national
“I told my players after the game that you never know,” Bowden
said. “We did this to them last year and the right people got
upset. But now we’re at the hands of someone else.”
“We can’t dwell on this because we still have something to play
for,” said FSU center Kevin Long. “Hopefully, the cards can
fall our way at the end like they did for Florida last year. We
have great seniors and I know we can keep everyone focused on
the fact that we still can reach our goal.”
The Seminoles (10-1) could not stop Florida’s home winning
streak, which extended to 21 games, because of a three-play,
80-yard drive that culminated with Taylor’s one-yard scoring run
with 1:50 remaining. Last season, Florida State also was ranked
number one when it was slammed 52-20 by Florida in the Sugar
Bowl and the Gators were ranked at the top when the Seminoles
scored a 24-21 victory.
“I’d rather lose 52-20 than the way we did tonight,” said
Bowden. “One play separated us. We just could not contain
(Jacquez) Green and Taylor long enough.”
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 20-yard field goal to give Florida
State a 29-25 lead with 2:38 remaining, and his ensuing kickoff
was downed in the end zone for a touchback.
“We started to go for the touchdown at the end, but we thought
if we gave up one long play they could beat us with a kick,”
Embattled sophomore Doug Johnson, who was the starter at the
beginning of the season but has struggled since, threw a 63-yard
pass up the right sideline to Green, who was finally pulled down
at the FSU 17. Taylor carried around left end for 16 yards on
the next play and went left for the score on the ensuing carry,
making it a 32-29 game.
“It was a great play,” said Johnson of the long pass to Green.
“They were looking for that curl that I came up with the signal
for, but I gave them a little something else that made it
curl-and-up. Quezzy’s (Green) a great athlete and went up there
and got it.”
“Doug has been through a lot,” said Spurrier. “We have not
given up on him. Like I said, he was in a slump or a rut and
some bad things were happening. It wasn’t all his fault; there
was sacks and bad plays. Fortunately, tonight our protection
was decent out of the shotgun, maybe we should have played the
whole season in the shotgun. Doug is a talented player and he
got his competitive fire back tonight.”
Busby was sacked on Florida State’s next play from scrimmage,
leaving the ball at the FSU 16. After an incompletion, Thomas
made the clinching interception.
Florida coach Steve Spurrier sent out fifth-year senior Noah
Brindise, who has taken time from Johnson, to kneel on the ball
twice and kick off a frantic celebration in Ben Hill Griffin
Stadium. The Gators have a 26-12-2 lead in the all-time series.
Taylor’s effort helped the Gators to a 499-360 advantage in
total yardage, including a 163-141 edge on the ground. The team
with more rushing yardage is 9-1-1 in the last 11 games of the
series. Florida State’s rushing defense had allowed just 408
yards on 348 attempts, a per-game average of 40.8, before
Taylor’s four touchdowns matched a school record originally set
in 1915 by Rammy Ramsdell against Mercer and tied 13 years later
by Tommy Owens against the same opponent. The Gators are 14-0
when he eclipses the 100-yard mark.
True freshman Travis Minor ran for 142 yards on 21 carries
against the NCAA’s second-ranked rushing defense. The Gators
were allowing 63.7 yards per game on the ground.
Green made seven catches for 145 yards and completed an 18-yard
pass to Johnson, who completed 13-of-25 passes for 218 yards and
no interceptions with one touchdown. Brindise was 5-of-9 for
100 yards with no TDs or interceptions.
“Yeah, we did it,” said Brindise. “It was hard, because a lot
of things I did today for the last time. It was the last time
to get to run onto the field, the last time I was gonna play at
`The Swamp.’ I was just trying to put that emotion behind me,
because I knew if there was any way to go out, it would be to
beat Florida State at home. It is so emotional for me now. I’m
just so happy our team played the way we did.”
Florida State trailed 18-17 at halftime — the first time that
has happened all season — but Janikowski booted a 31-yard field
goal for a two-point lead with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
Taylor gave the Gators the lead back 67 seconds later when he
broke through the middle for a career-best 61-yard touchdown run
and a 25-20 advantage.
“Coach called a sweep play,” Taylor said. “Normally, I like
sweep plays, but not as much as running straight at people. I
made one cut, and (fullback) Rod Frazier and the linemen opened
up nice holes. Once I got out in the open, nobody was gonna
The Seminoles rebounded with an eight-play, 74-yard drive that
took just over four minutes and ended with Minor’s 18-yard
scoring run. A two-point conversion pass fell incomplete and
Florida State held a 26-25 lead.
Taylor scored on a three-yard run 4:15 into the game, but
Collins Cooper missed the extra point for a 6-0 lead. Taylor
fumbled later in the quarter and linebacker Sam Cowart picked it
up and raced 15 yards for FSU’s go-ahead score. Another fumble
by Taylor led to Janikowski’s 28-yard field goal with 1:51 left
in the first quarter.
“After the fumble, I was really counting on the defense,” Taylor
said. “We should have beat them worse than the score said, but
we were minus 10 points. I gave them 10 points myself. My
teammates told me to stick with it and and say a prayer to the
man above. I said a quick prayer and everything worked out.”
Busby, who was 23-of-39 for 219 yards and two interceptions,
threw a five-yard scoring strike to tight end Melvin Pearsall
with 6:49 left in the second quarter as Florida State built a
“I’m not going to lie about it,” Busby said. “We came down here
and expected to win. It was a heck of a game and the kind of
game where the last team to score was going to win. They just
seemed to answer every time we went ahead. … We still have a
chance to win the championship. We need some help. Depending on
the rankings and what Tennessee does, we could still play in the
“When we had them 17-6, we really had the momentum and we almost
had the crowd out of it,” said Florida State linebacker Daryl
Bush. “But they were able to respond and get the crowd back
into the game. … This has got to be the toughest loss of my
Brindise threw a 49-yard pass to a wide-open Travis McGriff to
put the ball at the FSU 6 and then found him alone on the next
play for a score as the Gators got within 17-12 only 99 seconds
“He was open for about eight or nine seconds, and I finally saw
him,” said Brindise of his longest career completion and
McGriff’s career-long reception.
Taylor’s four-yard TD run 4:13 before halftime and a second
straight missed two-point conversion pass left Florida with an