Trey Benson ran for three touchdowns, including a 26-yarder on third down with less than three minutes to play, and No. 5 Florida State beat rival Florida 24-15 on Saturday night to extend its winning streak to 18.
Benson finished with 95 yards on 19 carries and helped take pressure off new quarterback Tate Rodemaker as the Seminoles (12-0) moved a victory from a potential spot in the College Football Playoff.
With star quarterback Jordan Travis watching from the visiting athletic director’s suite with his left leg in a walking boot, Rodemaker came up huge when it mattered most. He completed a dart to Ja’Khi Douglas with cornerback Jaydon Hill in tight coverage on a fourth-and-3 play from the Florida 34 in the fourth quarter. It set up a short field goal that put the Seminoles ahead for good.
Rodemaker was knocked out of the game for four plays on the ensuing possession, but he returned in time to hand off for Benson for the game-sealing score. Kalen Deloach squashed any thoughts of a late-game miracle when he intercepted Max Brown’s pass on the next drive.
Rodemaker did little to make anyone forget about Travis, a Heisman Trophy candidate whose season ended with a gruesome injury last week against North Alabama. But he did enough to help Florida State beat its in-state rival for the seventh time in the last 10 meetings.
Rodemaker completed 12 of 25 passes for 134 yards.
Brown was less effective, finishing 9-of-16 passing for 86 yards. Montrell Johnson led the Gators (5-7) with 107 yards rushing.
When it was over, Florida State receiver Keon Coleman did a backflip at midfield.
With No. 3 Michigan beating second-ranked Ohio State, the Seminoles should move up a spot in the next AP College Football Poll.
Florida State: The Seminoles returned nearly every starter from last year’s team with their sights set on making the CFP. Now they’re one win away despite losing Travis for the season.
Florida: Napier fell to 11-14 after two seasons, including 1-5 in rivalry games, and took a step back in Year 2. The Gators missed a bowl game for the first time since 2017, a losing season that could, at the very least, shorten the amount of time Napier gets to continue his rebuild.
HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE CALL
The Gators took advantage of a highly questionable call to take a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. Florida State safety Akeem Dent sacked Max Brown for a 10-yard loss on third down, but an official flagged Dent for a personal foul – a strange call considering Dent seemed to hit Brown with nearly perfect form.
Instead of having to settle for a short field-goal attempt, Montrell Johnson scored two plays later.
Florida State executed a perfect fake punt in the second quarter — the latest special teams woe for the Gators this season — but the Seminoles were penalized for delay of game.
The flag, which none of the players seemed to notice initially, negated what would have been a huge gain for tight end Preston Daniel. Instead, punter Alex Mastromanno backed up 5 yards and then shanked one into the stands, a 16-yarder that gave Florida a short field that led to a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
Hill was ejected on a targeting call that knocked Rodemaker out for a few plays. He was one of two Florida players ejected in a chippy game.
Florida freshman defensive lineman Jamari Lyons was ejected in the second quarter for spitting at Florida State guard Kelondre Jones. The two engaged during a first-down play and both ended up on the ground. When they stood up, it looked like Lyons spit at Jones. Lyons was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected after officials huddled. The extra yardage helped propel Florida State to its first touchdown.
Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, received one of the loudest ovations of the night while being honored at the end of the first quarter. Tebow is part of the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame class, which will be inducted during a Dec. 5 ceremony in Las Vegas. He also spoke to the Gators in the locker room before the game.
Florida State plays No. 9 Louisville next Saturday in the ACC title game in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Florida tries to keep its top-five recruiting class intact before next month’s signing day.