Jacob Pugh and Levonta Taylor turned takeaways into touchdowns and helped Florida State beat in-state rival Florida for the fifth consecutive year, 38-22 Saturday.
Pugh returned a fumble 16 yards for a score in the first quarter, and Taylor returned an interception 18 yards for another in the second. Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks was responsible for both costly turnovers.
The Seminoles (5-6) didn’t need much more against offensively challenged Florida, which ended the season by losing six of its final seven games.
The Gators (4-7) actually lost twice Saturday since former Oregon coach Chip Kelly picked UCLA over Florida. The Gators had targeted Kelly to replace Jim McElwain, who was let go last month following a lopsided loss to Georgia.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin, school president Kent Fuchs and several other Florida executives met with Kelly last week in New Hampshire, but failed to secure a deal. Kelly then interviewed with UCLA and seemingly snubbed Florida.
The Gators will now renew their search efforts, potentially targeting UCF’s Scott Frost. Frost has the 13th-ranked Knights (11-0) undefeated and playing in the American Athletic Conference championship game next week against No. 17 Memphis.
Florida State, meanwhile, moved a step close to becoming bowl eligible for the 36th consecutive year. The Seminoles can extend their NCAA record by beating Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday at home.
If FSU plays like it did against Florida, it should have no problem making the postseason once again.
The Seminoles made Franks look silly most of the day, sacking him five times and forcing four turnovers. They would have returned his third interception for a touchdown, but linebacker Matthew Thomas inexplicably slid before the goal line and was ruled down at the 1. Thomas also was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for celebrating, so the Seminoles got the ball at the 16.
James Blackman connected with Auden Tate for a 3-yard score six plays later, making it 38-16 and sending many of the 89,066 fans on hand to the exits.
Blackman completed 10 of 21 passes for 128 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
Franks was 18-of-39 passing for 184 yards, with two touchdowns and three picks.
Florida State: The Seminoles improved to 18-2 against teams from the Sunshine State since Jimbo Fisher took over in 2010 and now have their longest winning streak (five) against Florida since they first played in 1958. There’s clearly a gap between the in-state rivals, one Florida’s next coach will try to close.
Florida: The Gators ended up with a losing record for just the second time since 1979. Suspensions and injuries had a lot to do with the team’s struggles, but developing a quarterback has to be the top priority for the next coach.
Florida State linebacker Dontavious Jackson was disqualified in the second half after picking up his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game. Jackson was flagged for tussling with cornerback C.J. Henderson in the first quarter and with tight end C’yontai Lewis in the third.
Florida State: Hosts Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday, a game rescheduled from early September because of Hurricane Irma.
Florida: Failed to make a bowl game for the second time in the last 27 years.
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