Just before kickoff on a rainy day at Doak Campbell Stadium, smoke obscured the field the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles were about to take.
When the smoke cleared, only the Gators were standing.
Florida rolled up 500 yards of total offense for the third straight game, scored its third-most points in Tallahassee ever, and thoroughly dominated its in-state rival, taking out five years of frustration in a 41-14 triumph.
Feleipe Franks threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns in unquestionably his best game as a Gator, and Florida got another 282 yards on the ground — 129 from Lamical Perine, including a 74-yard touchdown scamper, and another 88 from Jordan Scarlett, who capped the day’s scoring with a touchdown and a celebration in which he rode offensive lineman Fred Johnson like a horse — in a game in which Florida came four points shy of matching its record scoring output in Tallahassee.
Of course, kicking field goals or succeeding on two failed fourth down tries deep in FSU territory would have gotten the Gators over that bar.
Florida’s defense held FSU mostly in check and set the tone from early on in the game. The Seminoles lost 10 yards on their first two drives, and had just 30 yards by the time Florida had taken a 13-0 lead — even after a failed fourth down on its first offensive drive — in the second quarter.
And while Deondre Francois would account for two touchdowns, one through the air on a scintillating catch by running back Cam Akers in the second quarter and one on the ground late in the third period, he would also throw two interceptions and lose the ball on a fumble, getting sacked five times by a Florida line led by Jachai Polite and Jabari Zuniga that simply could not be blocked on the afternoon.
The win is Florida’s first over Florida State overall and in Tallahassee since 2012, and a more lopsided win over the Seminoles than all but one of their victories over Florida over the last five meetings.
In that 2013 meeting, the eventual national champion Seminoles ended Florida’s worst season in decades with a 37-7 win in Gainesville.
In this game, a Florida team with three losses merely condemned the Seminoles to their first losing season and bowl-less campaign in decades.
The Gators should now remain well within range to be selected for a New Year’s Six bowl, and may have an opportunity to get their 10th win in the national spotlight.
One wonders if FSU fans will pay the attention to that game that they have to the Gators throughout their half-decade reign in the rivalry.
They will certainly have the time.