TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Sixth-ranked Florida ran roughshod over the rival Florida Seminoles and the nation's No. 1-ranked defense in the fourth quarter Saturday, erupting for 24 points in the final period for a smashing 37-26 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Senior tailback Mike Gillislee became the first UF player to reach the 1,000-yard milestone in a season since 2004, carrying 24 times for a 140 yards and two scores, including a 37-yard touchdown blast in the fourth quarter that gave the Gators (11-1) the lead for good. Freshman running back Matt Jones added 81 yards on 10 carries, with a 32-yard scoring run late to ice the game.
In winning its fourth straight, UF guaranteed itself a berth Bowl Championship Series, and turned its attention to Saturday night's game between No. 1 Notre Dame and USC. The Gators began the day ranked fourth in the BCS standings, with an outside shot of sneaking into the national championship picture.
FSU (10-2) came into the game with the No. 1-rated defensein the country, allowing just 236 total yards and only 70.6 on the ground per game. UF finished with 394 total yards, including 244 rushing.
The best defense on the field turned out to be Florida's, which forced five turnovers in the game, four by Seminoles senior quarterback E.J. Manuel, who rushed for a touchdown on the game's final play to make the score closer than it really was.
FSU led 20-16 when the game turned on a sack by safety Matt Elam and clean-up hit from linebacker Antonio Morrison, who jarred the ball loose from Manuel on a vicious hit. UF defensive end Dominique Easley recovered at the FSU 37.
On the very next play, Gillislee went straight into the teeth of the Florida State defense and sped practically untouched into the end zone.
After FSU backup quarterback Clint Trickett went three-and-out, UF's Marcus Roberson returned a punt 50 yards -- the longest by a Gator in four years -- to the FSU 32. Five plays later, on third-and-4 from the 14, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel (147 yards through the air) rolled right and hit Quinton Dunbar, who scooted into the end zone.
UF drew within 20-16 on a 32-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis, his third field goal of the game, and three plays later forced the Manuel fumble.
Manuel threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, as Florida State erased a 13-point deficit to take a 20-13 lead in the 13 quarter.
Mere moments after Manuel fired a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick O'Leary to pull FSU (10-1) to within 13-10 early in the second half, Driskel fumbled a handoff to tailback Gillislee and Seminoles All-America defensive end Bjoern Werner plucked the ball from midair to give FSU the ball at the UF
On first down, Seminoles tailback James Wilder rumbled to the 1 and after two UF penalties, Manuel rolled to his right on a play-action pass and walked untouched into the end zone for Florida State's first lead of the game at the 8:30 mark of the third quarter.
Seminoles placekicker Dustin Hopkins bombed a 53-yard field goal with 4:24 to go in the third period -- FSU's fourth straight score to that point -- to give the home team a 20-13 advantage.
A touchdown run by Gillislee and two field goals from Sturgis had Florida up 13-3 at halftime.
Hopkins got the Seminoles on the board with a 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half after Manuel moved the Seminoles 56 yards in nine plays -- including a big 23-yard runner by the senior quarterback -- to take some momentum into the locker room.
The Gators (10-1) scored twice in less than 90 seconds earlier in the period to go up 13-0 on the Seminoles, who have won two straight in the series.
After Sturgis kicked his second field goal of the game, a 45-yarder, FSU return man Carlos Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff on a hit by Jabari Gorman. The ball was recovered by Darrin Kitchins at the FSU 21 and Gillislee scored on a 9-yard toss sweep to the left just three plays later against a defense ranked No. 1 in the nation.
By halftime, Gillislee had carried 18 times for 75 yards and become the first UF running back since Ciatrick Fason in 2004 to eclipse the 1,000-yard milestone for a season. The touchdown was his 10th of the season and ninth on the ground.
The two field goals by Sturgis gave him 68 for his career and moved him past Jeff Chandler (67 from 1998-2001) for the most in school history.
The second kick capped a 10-play, 54-yard drive by the Gators, a march that included a 25-yard completion from quarterback Jeff Driskel to tight end Jordan Reed on third-and-1. Sturgis' kick came at the 6:53 mark of the second period.
Florida took the opening kickoff and marched 54 yards in 14 plays, with Sturgis nailing a 39-yarder for a 3-0 edge.
Driskel, who went 10 of 15 for 77 yards in the first half, completed a series of short passes to move UF into scoring territory, but the play a lot of Gators fans likely were talking about was the play he missed -- an overthrow of a wide-open Frankie Hammonds down the left sideline that would have been a huge gainer.
The UF drive eventually went 54 yards in 14 plays before stalling at the FSU 22.
The Seminoles answered with a long drive on their opening possession, but quarterback E.J. Manual sailed a third-and-12 pass high and the ball was intercepted by UF safety Matt Elam at the Florida 12.
The Gators had a great chance to increase their after a Driskel 31-yard run deep into FSU territory, but a fourth-and-1 gamble backfired when Trey Burton missed his wide-open brother, tight end Clay Burton, down the middle of the field.