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Defense Helps Make It a Fun Day for Florida State

Nonconference: Seminoles keep national title hopes alive by shutting down Florida offense in 23-12 victory.

November 22, 1998|From Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It was a classic matchup, Florida's State's top-ranked defense against rival Florida's "Fun & Gun" offense.

And it was No. 5-ranked Florida State's defense that had more fun Saturday, intercepting three of Doug Johnson's passes and holding No. 4 Florida to 64 yards and two first downs in the second half of a 23-12 victory.

"Their defense played our offense about as good as anyone has," Florida Coach Steve Spurrier said. "We squandered our early scoring chances and they came back and dominated us."

Florida State (11-1) went to a three-man rush in many situations, making it more difficult for Johnson to find an open receiver.

"It was tough finding a way to throw with their coverage," said Spurrier, whose team is 9-2 and out of the national title race.

Florida State would need two of the three unbeaten teams ahead of it in the Bowl Championship Series rankings--Tennessee, Kansas State and UCLA--to lose to get a crack at the national championship game Jan. 4 at the Fiesta Bowl.

Two teams Florida State has defeated this season, Miami and Texas A&M, can help the Seminoles. Miami plays UCLA and the Aggies meet Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. Both games are Dec. 5.

Florida, which came into the game averaging 487.7 yards, finished with only 204 against the Seminoles--the second fewest yards since Spurrier became coach at his alma mater in 1990. Florida had only 17 yards rushing in 20 attempts and was zero for 13 on third-down conversions.

"The defense has played well since that second game," Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden said, referring to his club's only loss, a 24-7 loss at North Carolina State. "They have played super."

Florida State, with sophomore quarterback Marcus Outzen making only his second collegiate start, scored the final 17 points.

"Not many quarterbacks play Florida the first time and come out successful," said Florida State tailback Travis Minor, who gained 127 yards--his second consecutive 100-yard game against the Gators. "Everybody had been doubting him all week, everybody except for himself and us."

Outzen lost two fumbles, one that resulted in a controversial safety, but was otherwise effective, going 13 for 22 for 167 yards with no interceptions.

"I'm still in shock," Outzen said. "I would not trade this for anything."

Outzen took over for Chris Weinke, who had neck surgery after suffering an injury Nov. 7 against Virginia.

Peter Warrick caught a 32-yard touchdown pass and passed for a 46-yard score off a reverse in the second half to spark Florida State's victory.

The first touchdown pass of Outzen's career--to Warrick--and Sebastian Janikowski's extra point gave Florida State its first lead, 13-12, less than four minutes into the third quarter.

The Seminoles took a 20-12 lead when Warrick, running to his right on what looked like a reverse, hit Ron Dugans with a 46-yard strike with 13:30 left to play.

On the previous play, a 48-yard touchdown run by Minor was called back when Warrick was flagged for holding.

On Outzen's touchdown pass, the ball was tipped by Florida's Marquand Manuel and caught by Warrick, who turned it into a 32-yard scoring play.

Florida, capitalizing on two Florida State turnovers and a dozen Seminoles penalties, led at halftime, 12-6.

Florida State got a break in the second quarter when Outzen's fumble went into his own end zone and appeared to be recovered by Florida's Gerald Warren for a touchdown. But no whistle sounded and Warren was knocked off the ball and it was recovered by the Seminoles, giving the Gators a safety.

Janikowski had field goals of 36 , 42 and 41 yards, the last coming with with 4:31 left.

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