Florida State made a strong case for a
chance to defend its national championship, beating Florida in the
game that usually gives the winner a title shot.
Chris Weinke fought off the flu and threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns—two to Marvin Minnis—as No. 3 Florida State had a surprisingly easy time beating its bitter state rival 30-7 on Saturday night.
The Seminoles (10-1) completed their regular season by beating the No. 4 Gators (9-2) for the third year in a row, but now have to wait two weeks to find out if they’ll play for the Bowl Championship Series’ title in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.
Florida, the SEC East champion, still has a chance to play in the Sugar Bowl if it beats Auburn in the league title game Dec. 2.
The Seminoles can feel good about their chances because the winner of the Florida-Florida State game has gone on to play for the title five of the last seven years.
In the 45th meeting between these powers, a Doak Campbell Stadium-record crowd of 83,042 witnessed the Seminoles most impressive performance of the season.
Over 83,000 in the Stands
Weinke completed 23 of 44 passes, and his second TD pass of the game—a 34-yarder to Minnis in the first quarter—made him the Atlantic Coast Conference’s career passing leader, moving him ahead of Duke’s Ben Bennett. Weinke, who also enhanced his Heisman Trophy chances, has thrown for 9,789 yards in his career.
Minnis, who caught three TD passes in last week’s win over Wake Forest, had eight catches for 187 yards. For Florida, Jesse Palmer was 17-of-30 for 180 yards and two interceptions. Rex Grossman, who took the first snap and didn’t return until the game was decided in the fourth quarter, also threw an interception. He finished 10-of-16 for 98 yards.
With the win, Florida State extended its unbeaten streak at home to 52 games, dating to 1991, and its home winning streak to 35 games, dating to 1994.
Holding a 14-7 lead at the half, the Seminoles took control in the third period thanks to Weinke’s passing and Florida’s penalties.
William McCray capped an 80-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run, but the Gators hurt themselves with two pass interference calls—one against Lito Sheppard trying to stick with Minnis, the other on Todd Johnson, who was flagged for holding Minnis on the goal line. Florida was penalized 14 times for 116 yards.
Fans Rushed the Field
The Seminoles extended the lead to 27-7 on Weinke’s final TD pass—a 51-yarder to Minnis with 1:08 left in the quarter.
When Palmer tried to bring back the Gators, the Seminoles’ defense came up with big plays. First, free safety Chris Hope intercepted a pass intended for Reche Caldwell to stop one drive. Then, Tay Cody made his second interception of the game, this one off Grossman, and returned it 58 yards to set up Brett Cimorelli’s 33-yard field goal with 10:42 left in the game.
When the game ended, fans rushed the field to congratulate the players, and oranges were tossed onto the field.
Now comes the wait.
Florida State, third in the current BCS standings behind Oklahoma and Miami, is expected to move ahead of Miami when the new point totals are released Monday. Miami (9-1) beat Syracuse 26-0 on Saturday night and closes its season next week against Boston College.