Nov 17, 2001
By EDDIE PELLS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Rex Grossman threw two touchdown passes, Florida's defense made two key stops and the fourth-ranked Gators made Florida State look just like the rest of their overmatched opponents with a 37-13 victory Saturday night.
The Gators (9-1) weren't perfect, but they were good enough to validate the fears of Bobby Bowden, who figured the 21st-ranked Seminoles would need a miracle to win in this, a game in which they were an unheard-of 15-point underdog.
Grossman threw for 290 yards, and the Gators held Florida State on two straight drives inside their 10 to beat the Seminoles (6-4) for the first time since 1997.
The victory kept the Gators well in the national-title picture - although that loss to Auburn last month could still prove their undoing - and may have been convincing enough to knock Florida State out of The Associated Press 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.
FSU's loss - its worst since falling 52-20 to the Gators in the 1997 Sugar Bowl with the national title on the line - 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-1, but nobody was fooled when quarterback Chris Rix handed off to Nick Maddox, then ran a pass pattern of his own. Maddox lobbed it back across the field to Rix, but he was smothered for a 1-yard loss.
On the very next play, Grossman threw his only interception and FSU regained possession at the Gators 11. But three plays produced 5 yards and the Seminoles got a 23-yard field goal from Xavier Beitia.
The Gators answered with an 11-play, 85-yard touchdown drive in which they made 20 yards on a fourth-and-3 from the Florida State 40, then got a 19-yard end around from Reche Caldwell to set up Grossman's 1-yard touchdown run.
Rix came back with his only touchdown drive of the night, but a few minutes later, Grossman hit Jabar Gaffney for a 28-yard score, set up by 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 surprisingly passed on his best chance to rub it in, opting for Jeff Chandler's 18-yard field goal with 2:32 remaining.
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.
Florida defensive end Alex Brown had a sack and joined 15 other seniors in celebrating his first victory over the Seminoles in four long years.
Rix, a freshman, threw for 229 yards. He was improved over the six-turnover debacle he suffered through against Miami, but it wasn't nearly enough against the nation's fifth-ranked scoring defense.
Florida played most of the second half without leading rusher Earnest Graham, who left on crutches with a twisted right knee. He'll have two weeks to heal before the Gators play No. 6 Tennessee in the rescheduled game that will decide the SEC East title.