TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With all due respect to Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn and Deion Sanders, Florida State football has never had it this good against Florida.
The Seminoles enter Saturday’s 63rd meeting with the Gators on a school-record, five-game winning streak in the series, and, even better, have won seven of the last eight meetings.
FSU has won in Tallahassee and in Gainesville, has won both big and small and has won when one, both or neither team has been ranked. Dating to 2010, Florida State has beaten four UF coaches.
And the Seminoles will attempt to extend their dominance into a new era on Saturday, when first-year coach Willie Taggart meets first-year Florida coach Dan Mullen.
Florida State and Florida haven’t met with first-year coaches since 1960.
So with that in mind, let’s relive FSU’s golden era of the rivalry with a look back at the top 10 FSU-UF moments of the past decade.
10) Nov. 25, 2017: Burns, Pugh get things started
With Florida State football surrounded by uncertainty, Brian Burns put Seminole fans at ease by forcing an early fumble that Jacob Pugh returned 16 yards for a touchdown. The play gave FSU an early seven-point lead and was one of two defensive touchdowns for Florida State.
9) Nov. 26, 2016: Francois, Rudolph break it open
Locked in a tight affair and hoping to clinch a New Year’s Six bowl berth, Deondre Francois gave the Seminoles some welcome breathing room with a 46-yard touchdown pass that helped turn a one-score game into another lopsided affair.
8) Nov. 27, 2010: Jenije and Bright sniff out Urban’s trickery
FSU’s first win over Florida in seven years came in part thanks to a sharp special-teams play. With the Seminoles leading Urban Meyer’s Gators by three early through the second quarter, Meyer called a fake punt in hopes of swinging momentum UF’s way. But FSU senior Ochuko Jenije and freshman Justin Bright read the play perfectly and combined to bring down punter Chaz Henry for a loss. And that play became more significant because of what followed …
7) Nov. 26, 2011: Parks’ pick-six
A pretty play put a bow on a not-so-pretty game. Despite gaining only 95 yards of total offense, Florida State topped Florida, 21-7, in Gainesville on the strength of two touchdown runs by then-freshman Devonta Freeman and the first pick-six of senior Terrance Parks’ career.
6) Nov. 25, 2017: Taylor makes it two
Florida State’s second defensive touchdown of the afternoon came from Levonta Taylor, who intercepted a short pass from Florida’s Feleipe Franks and ran it back 18 yards for an easy touchdown that gave the Seminoles all the points they’d need in a 38-22 victory.
5) Nov. 28, 2015: Cook quiets ‘The Swamp’
While the 27-2 final score suggests an easy FSU win, the Seminoles’ 2015 visit to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was still somewhat in doubt until Dalvin Cook shut the door with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs that were part of a 26-carry, 183-yard performance.
4) Nov. 27, 2010: Ponder, Smith make Doak erupt
Just a few moments after Florida’s ill-fated fake punt, the Seminoles sent a shockwave through Doak Campbell Stadium when Christian Ponder found Rodney Smith for a 39-yard touchdown pass that helped unleash six years’ worth of pent-up frustration and disappointment.
For the first time since 2003, a win over Florida felt close.
3) Nov. 28, 2015: Maguire threads needle to Kerr
In what must qualify as one of the craziest plays in the rivalry’s history, quarterback Sean Maguire took a fourth-down snap, scrambled to his right and, with defenders only inches away, threaded a pass between two UF defenders and into the arms of tight end Jeremy Kerr for a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Seminoles a 10-point lead.
Incidentally, Kerr went on to finish his Florida State career with a most unique stat line: one catch for one yard and one touchdown.
2) Nov. 29, 2014: Terrance Smith turns the tide
In need of a victory to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive, No. 1 Florida State was in desperate need of a spark on a rainy afternoon in Tallahassee. Jameis Winston had thrown three interceptions and, despite being in flux after announcing a coaching change earlier in the month, the Treon Harris-led Gators held a nine-point lead and were driving for more.
That’s when junior linebacker Terrance Smith played the hero, intercepting a deflected Harris pass at the FSU six-yard line and returning it 94 yards – on an injured knee, no less – for a score that put FSU back on track.
Nov. 30, 2013: Mr. Benjamin’s wild ride
Sure, it was just one of four touchdowns that No. 2 Florida State scored in a 37-7 throttling of the 4-8 Gators.
But it’s easy to forget that Florida held the high-powered Seminoles to just a field goal in the first quarter, and that they held that same, narrow three-point lead as the game inched toward halftime.
Then Kelvin Benjamin provided one of the defining images of the 2013 season.
Facing first down near midfield, Winston found Benjamin over the middle and Benjamin did the rest – pulling away from one would-be tackle, side-stepping another and then racing toward the end zone.
As he approached the goal line, Benjamin spun through four Florida defenders before scoring the first of his three touchdowns.
By the time it was over, the Seminoles had their largest-ever win over Florida and were on their way to a No. 1 national ranking.
And a little more than a month later, Benjamin would score a touchdown in southern California that became even more famous than his romp through Gainesville.