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Florida Has Type of Performance Bowden Feared

November 18, 2001|From Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rex Grossman and a smothering Florida defense were every bit as good as Bobby Bowden feared.

Grossman threw for 290 yards and two touchdowns Saturday night, and the fourth-ranked Gators came up with two key defensive stops to ease to a 37-13 victory over No. 21 Florida State.

The Gators (9-1) weren't perfect, but they were good enough to validate Bowden's fears. The coach was only half kidding last week when he said the Seminoles would need a miracle to win a game in which they were an unheard-of 15-point underdog.

"I don't know how you hold them down; they've got so many guns," Bowden said. "They remind me of us the last couple years."

The victory kept the Gators in the thick of the national-title picture--although a loss to Auburn last month could still prove their undoing. It may also have been convincing enough to knock Florida State (6-4) out of the top 25 for the first time since early in the 1989 season.

That wasn't the only bad news for the Seminoles. About the time their game ended, Maryland wrapped up a 23-19 victory over North Carolina State to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title--marking the first time the Seminoles haven't won it since joining the conference in 1992.

Florida felt no pity. The Gators had lost three in a row in this bitter rivalry, and 15 seniors felt what it was like to finally beat the Seminoles.

The loss was Florida State's most lopsided since falling, 52-20, to the Gators in the 1997 Sugar Bowl with the national title on the line.

This game was essentially sealed in the third quarter when the Seminoles, trailing, 20-3, managed just three points off two turnovers that each resulted in trips inside Florida's 10.

On the first, Bowden called a trick play on fourth and one, but nobody was fooled when quarterback Chris Rix handed off to Nick Maddox, then ran a pass pattern. Maddox lobbed it back across the field to Rix, but he was tackled for a one-yard loss.

Bowden said he overruled his son, offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden, who wanted to kick the field goal.

"Our coaches knew it was coming, the players knew it was coming, the head coach knew it was coming, too," Gator defensive coordinator Jon Hoke said. "He was flying sideways down the sideline yelling, 'Watch the boot pass!' He was screaming it, we were screaming it, the players heard it, and they got in position to make the play."

On the very next play, Grossman threw his only interception and Florida State regained possession at the Gator 11. But three plays produced five yards and the Seminoles got a 23-yard field goal from Xavier Beitia.

After the second stop, the Gators made it 27-6 with an 11-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. They gained 20 yards on a fourth and three from the Florida State 40, then got a 19-yard end around from Reche Caldwell to set up Grossman's one-yard touchdown run.

Rix came back with his only touchdown drive of the game, but a few minutes later, Grossman hit Jabar Gaffney for a 28-yard score, set up when Chance Gwaltney shanked a 19-yard punt.

The only issue after that was whether Steve Spurrier would run it up, as many Seminoles feared this week.

Spurrier, 5-8-1 against Bowden, surprisingly passed on his best chance to rub it in, opting for Jeff Chandler's 18-yard field goal with 2:32 remaining.

Still, it could have been worse for the Seminoles.

Florida's defensive backs dropped no fewer than four of Rix's passes that hit them square in the hands, and the Gators settled for field goals twice in the second quarter after receivers dropped catchable passes in the end zone.

Rix threw for 229 yards.

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