GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida coach Dan Mullen is unbeaten against Florida State. Most of his players can’t say the same.
The eighth-ranked Gators (9-2) have dropped four straight games at home to their biggest in-state rival, a decade-old skid they hope to end Saturday night in the Swamp.
“Yeah, I heard that,” senior linebacker David Reese said. “You can’t miss Twitter. Twitter tells you everything about yourself before you know it.”
Florida’s last victory against the Seminoles in Gainesville came in Tim Tebow’s final home game in 2009, a 37-10 shellacking that turned out to be the regular-season finale for longtime FSU coach Bobby Bowden. Bowden announced his (forced) retirement three days later.
The Seminoles (6-5) have celebrated every trip to Florida Field since, winning each of those four games by at least two touchdowns. Ending that losing streak tops the list of everything Florida has to play for on “Senior Day.”
“It would mean everything,” defensive tackle Adam Shuler said.
With a victory, the Gators would:
- Reach 10 wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2009;
- Move a step closer to securing a New Year’s Six bowl, likely the Orange or Cotton bowl;
- Finish unbeaten at home for the 14th time in the last 30 years and first time since 2016.
“We’ve got to beat the heck out these boys,” linebacker Jon Greenard said. “That’s our whole mindset. It’s nothing else as far as worrying about bowl game or after the game, getting rest. Our mindset is to beat the heck out of them. They’re going to think the same thing. I hope they think the same thing. But that’s how we’re coming.”
The Gators have one more reason to win: if they don’t, players have run stadium steps. They had to do that twice last season, following losses to Kentucky and Missouri in Mullen’s first year, and don’t want it to happen again.
“We pride ourselves on not losing on the home field,” Greenard said.
It’s happened way more often than anyone at Florida would like in recent years against the ’Noles.
The losing streak started with one of the strangest games in series history. Florida State could barely do anything on offense in 2011, finishing with 95 yards, but scored three touchdowns off interceptions in a 21-7 victory.
The Seminoles were much more dominant two years later, winning 37-7 behind Jameis Winston’s three touchdown passes. FSU went on to win the national championship.
Dalvin Cook was the star in 2015. He ran for 183 yards, including 150 and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, in a 27-2 win.
Two years ago, quarterback Feleipe Franks had his worst game as Florida’s starter. He had four turnovers that resulted in touchdowns in FSU’s 38-22 victory. Franks had a fumble and an interception returned for scores as well as two more picks that gave the Seminoles the ball inside the 20-yard line.
“It’s tough. Florida State had a really good program; they still have a really good program,” receiver Josh Hammond said. “During those ‘11-12 years they were competing for national championships and playing at a really high level, so it doesn’t surprise me that we haven’t beat them in such a long time.
“Hopefully this team can go out there Saturday and change that.”
Florida had lost five straight in the series before winning 41-14 last year in Tallahassee.
Now, the Gators are 17 1/2-point favorites in the Swamp.
“If they win this game, it doesn’t matter what they’ve done all year,” Greenard said. “They’re just going to basically take a `W’ for the season. We’re going to go out there with the same mentality. We’re going to continue to impose our will and make sure they feel us.”
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