Florida Gators running back Trevor Etienne (7) rushes with the ball while Florida State Seminoles linebacker Tatum Bethune (15) and Florida State Seminoles defensive back Azareye'h Thomas (20) attempt to tackle during the first half at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 25, 2023. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

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No. 5 Florida State holds off Florida, 24-15

Trey Benson tied a career high with three rushing touchdowns to lead No. 5 Florida State to a 24-15 victory over Florida on Saturday night in Gainesville, Fla.

Benson went for 95 yards on 19 carries as the Seminoles (12-0) leaned on their running game and defense after losing starting quarterback Jordan Travis to a season-ending leg injury last week.

The victory was Florida State’s 18th in a row — the third-longest active streak in the FBS — and it kept the Seminoles’ hopes of making the College Football Playoff alive. FSU has a chance to move back into the top four after No. 3 Michigan defeated No. 2 Ohio State earlier Saturday.

The Gators (5-7), who also lost their starting quarterback last week when Graham Mertz suffered a collarbone fracture, came up short of clinching bowl eligibility for the first time since going 4-7 in 2017.

Benson’s third score — a 26-yard touchdown run with 2:48 left in the fourth quarter — sealed the outcome for Florida State.

Jared Verse recorded 2.5 sacks and Patrick Payton had two to lead Florida State’s defense, which had six sacks.

But getting the win wasn’t easy for the Seminoles and Tate Rodemaker, who made his first start this season and completed 12 of 25 passes for 134 yards. Rodemaker did not throw a touchdown pass, but he did not throw an interception, either.

Rodemaker didn’t get into much of a rhythm until the final drive of the first half, as the Gators sacked him three times for the game and brought constant pressure early on. A blitz resulted in a sack of Rodemaker in the end zone for a safety with 5:08 left in the first half and a 12-0 Florida lead.

The Gators’ Max Brown completed 9 of 16 passes for 86 yards. But it was Florida’s running game that helped the Gators start strong. Montrell Johnson Jr. finished with 107 yards on 18 carries and put the Gators ahead early on with a 5-yard touchdown run.

But Rodemaker later hit his stride and led a 10-play, 90-yard drive that was capped with a 1-yard touchdown run by Benson with 26 seconds left in the first half. A 36-yard touchdown run by Benson put the Seminoles ahead 14-12 with 12:31 left in the third quarter before Florida answered with a 37-yard field goal by Trey Smack to go back up at 15-14.

Keon Coleman’s 34-yard punt return to Florida State’s 43 sparked a go-ahead scoring drive, which put the Seminoles ahead 17-15 with 7:17 left thanks to Ryan Fitzgerald’s 19-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
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