Trey Benson scores 3 TDs as unbeaten FSU rallies past Gators 24-15, stays in playoff hunt

Florida State running back Trey Benson celebrates his 1-yard touchdown run against Florida during the second quarter Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the final seconds ticked, Florida State receiver Keon Coleman performed a backflip at midfield. It was perfect, just like the Seminoles.

 

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 — he also got to break the rock in the postgame locker room — and took pressure off new quarterback Tate Rodemaker as the Seminoles (12-0) moved a victory from a potential spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.

 

“It was an impressive rally for our team,” said coach Mike Norvell, whose team outscored Florida 24-3 after falling behind early.

 

Florida State quarterback Tate Rodemaker waves to fans as he leaves the field after the team’s win over Florida, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

 

It was a less-than-ideal finale for Florida (5-7), which lost its fifth consecutive game and will miss out on a bowl for the first time since 2017. Coach Billy Napier’s team had two players ejected, suffered more gaffes on special teams and failed to hold a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth consecutive week.

 

 

The ‘Noles trailed 12-0 in the second quarter but were dominant in the second half, holding Florida to 48 yards in the final 30 minutes and minus-15 yards in the fourth quarter. FSU finished with six sacks, including 2 1/2 by standout Jared Verse.

 

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 on a fourth-and-3 play from the Florida 34 in the fourth. It set up a short field goal that put the Seminoles ahead for good.

 

“Everybody hit another physical and mental gear for (Travis),” Verse said. “I looked him in the eye and said, ‘We did that for you.’ ”

 

Rodemaker was knocked out of the game for a few snaps on the ensuing possession, but he returned in time to hand off to 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.

 

Florida State quarterback Tate Rodemaker looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Florida safety Jordan Castell (14) and defensive lineman Caleb Banks (88) during the first half Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

 

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.

 

Brown was less effective, finishing 9-of-16 passing for 86 yards in place of injured starter Graham Mertz (broken collarbone). Montrell Johnson led the Gators with 107 yards rushing.

 

Florida quarterback Max Brown looks for a receiver as Florida State defensive lineman Joshua Farmer tries to stop him during the first half Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

 

“There’s no denying that we have work to do,” Napier said. “But what gives me confidence is what I see from the players, the growth I see, their words, their actions, the way they work, the selflessness, the sacrifice. They’re invested.”

 

With No. 3 Michigan beating second-ranked Ohio State, the Seminoles should move up a spot in the next AP College Football Poll.

 

Gideon Canice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *