Saturday November 29, 2003No. 11 Gator Football Falls in Heartbreaker 38-34
Despite turning an 11-point halftime deficit into a three-point lead with less than three minutes in the game, No. 11 Florida fell to No. 9 Florida State 38-34 on Saturday in front of a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium record crowd of 90, 407.
Freshman quarterback Chris Leak connected with senior tight end Ben Troupe on a 25-yard score to give the Gators (8-4, 6-2 SEC) a 34-31 lead with 2:50 left in the game. The Seminoles’ (10-2, 7-1 ACC) Chris Rix converted a fourth-and-14 and, one play later, threw a 52-yard pass to P.K. Sam for the game-winning score with 55 seconds remaining.
The Gators advanced to the Seminoles’ 18-yard line as time expired, snapping their five-game winning streak.
Leak completed 22-for-36 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his scores came on strikes to Troupe, who had four catches for a game-high 121 yards.
Junior kicker Matt Leach converted on four-of-five field goals, three of which were from more than 40 yards out. Senior cornerback and Thorpe Award finalist Keiwan Ratliff recorded his fourth non-offensive score of the season with a 77-yard fumble recovery.
Rix completed 14-of-19 passes and had four touchdowns.
Trailing 17-6 at the half, Florida returned from the locker room and scored 18 unanswered points to take a 24-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
Two key plays by Leak on the Gators’ first possession of the second half set up their first touchdown. Leak caught a throw-back pass from fellow freshman Andre Caldwell and picked up 30 yards on the play to the Florida State 25-yard line. On the next snap, Leak connected with Troupe for a score on a fade pass into the right corner of the endzone.
Following a 42-yard field goal by Leach, Florida State put itself in position with a score when it had a first-and-10 on the Gators’ 19-yard line. On third down, senior strong safety Guss Scott flushed Rix to the right side of the pocket and forced a fumble that was returned 77 yards for the score by Ratliff, giving Florida a 24-17 lead.
After Pat Watkins recovered a fumble by sophomore running back Ciatrick Fason and ran it back 25 yards for a touchdown, Leach connected on his fourth field goal of the game with 8:01 left in the game to put Florida ahead 27-24.
Rix moved the Seminoles 78 yards and gave them a first-and-goal at the Florida three-yard line on their next possession. Florida forced a fumble on a Leon Washington run, but officials ruled he recovered it. The quarterback snuck in for a score to give the Seminoles a 31-27 lead with 5:01 remaining.
Florida took the first lead of the game on a 47-yard field goal by Leach at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter.
The Seminoles answered on their next possession, however, by scoring on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rix to Dominic Robinson at 1:46 in the first quarter.
Florida State kicker Xavier Beitia and the Gators’ Leach swapped field goals on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, with Leach’s 47-yarder at 5:31 trimming the Seminoles’ lead to 10-6.
A 77-yard kickoff return by Washington on the Seminoles’ next possession set Rix up for his second touchdown pass of the game. Florida State extended its lead to 17-6 on the quarterback’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Matt Henshaw with 5:02 remaining in the first half.
Following the game, the Gators’ all-time series record with the Seminoles stands at 27-19-2.