GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- It was a suffocating performance. The Florida offense had nowhere to turn on Saturday night as the Florida State defense dominated en route to a 21-7 win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The win was the first for FSU in Gainesville since 2003 and it's first two-touchdown victory in The Swamp since 1987.
FSU held the Gators to just 184 yards of total offense, forced a season-high four interceptions and had a season-best 13 tackles for loss.
"I thought our defense played unbelievably," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. Fisher is now 4-0 against in-state rivals Florida and Miami. "Thought it was one of the best defensive performances I've been around in my coaching career in 22 years considering the way we struggled on the opposite side of the ball."
The defense took control from the start of the game, forcing a two three-and-outs, and coming away with three interceptions on the Gators' first five possessions.
Greg Reid came away with the first of his two picks at the UF 25, which set up a 1-yard touchdown by Devonta Freeman to give the Seminoles an early 7-0 lead.
The two teams then traded punts and Florida looked like it was marching towards at least a field goal when Mike Harris came up with his first interception of the year at his own 7. Harris returned it 89 yards to the UF 4. Three plays later Freeman punched it in to make it 14-0.
"Oh, it was huge, moved the ball," Fisher said of the pick. "We got back down there and just, huge play, that was the one drive, they got down there and did a great job."
The Seminoles had just 95 yards of total offense and EJ Manuel completed 6 of 13 pass attempts for 65 yards.
As the offense stumbled and the defense dominated, Fisher went with a slightly more conservative approach on offense.
"I didn't call that game as an offensive coordinator," Fisher said. "You had to call it the way the game was flowing. We were controlling it and they were having a hard time scoring."
Despite how dominant the defense was playing, the FSU offense was unable to put the game out of reach. A few minutes into the fourth quarter safety Terrance Parks came up with the biggest play of his career as he intercepted backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-0. That was more than enough cushion for FSU's stellar defense.
"When it's three scores, even if they get it, you get it back and - it's a huge difference in the way you call the game and the way you play the game," Fisher said. "You're fighting to get that third score, so you're - like last week (against UVA). It was the same thing as last week. All you need was to get the third score last week, but you know, we didn't."
Florida quarterback John Brantley finished the game 9 of 15 for 104 yards and three interceptions before being knocked out of the game with a concussion. Brissett, his replacement, didn't fare much better completing just 4-of-13 passes for 27 yards with an interception.
FSU also bottled up the UF rushing attack, limiting the Gators to just 54 yards on the ground on 33 attempts, an average of 1.6 yards per carry.
"We played so great on defense," senior linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "We didn't really have any breakdowns throughout the whole game besides that last little touchdown. We were playing physical the whole game, everybody was playing their assignments and we pretty much just followed the game plan Coach Stoops had."
The win is the second consecutive for FSU over the Gators and gives the Seminoles their first back-to-back 'state title' since 1998 and 1999. Last year's win snapped a six-year losing streak for FSU over the Gators.
"It's huge for us to turn it around," Bradham said of the series. "Sets the tone for the younger guys, they know what it feels like now to be able to win and be able to play this team in The Swamp and win."