TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State had the lead and the momentum against intrastate rival Florida, but both vanished when Seminoles quarterback E.J. Manuel took a big hit that temporarily knocked him out of the back-and-forth game.
Manuel fumbled the ball as he went down and the sixth-ranked Gators recovered. On the next play, Florida's Mike Gillislee ran 37 yards with 11:01 left to give the Gators back the lead. The 10th-ranked Seminoles could never get it back and lost 37-26 to their archrivals on Saturday.
"We had the momentum in the third quarter and then that hit changed it," said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. "We still had opportunities."
Fisher said at first he thought Manuel, who laid on the field for several minutes, had taken a hit to the head from Antonio Morrison. Actually, it was to Manuel's midsection.
"Just got the wind knocked out of me," Manuel said. "A little disoriented but I came back. It's fine."
Backup Clint Trickett played the next series, but by the time Manuel returned the Gators had scored again and the Seminoles were down by 10.
"The gas just went away after `E `went down," receiver Kenny Shaw said. "He's the leader of this team."
The fumble was Manuel's fourth turnover and one of five committed by the Seminoles. Manuel also had three interceptions. It was only the second time he has been intercepted that many times in a game.
"That was not one of his more stellar performances, that's for sure," Fisher said. "We have to do a better job coaching him."
Fisher said the Seminoles will have to put the loss quickly behind them because next week they have a date with Georgia Tech in the ACC title game. A win there, puts them in the Orange Bowl.
"I'll tell you what, of course they're down and sad, but you have a lot of those seniors saying `Hey, you still have a lot to play for,'" Fisher said.
Florida State was hoping to keep its own long shot national title hopes alive, and restore a bit of respect for its conference, with a third straight win over the Gators, but couldn't.
Florida sealed its victory away on a Jeff Driskel's 14-yard touchdown throw to Quinton Dunbar with seven minutes left and Matt Jones' 32-yard run with 2:33 left for a 37-20 lead.
Florida State added a meaningless touchdown as time ran out on a 22-yard run by Manuel.
"We fight for each other...and we'll fight to the end – 60 minutes," said running back James Wilder Jr. "There's no point in fighting for 59 minutes. There's no point in going that much and not finishing off. ... We have too much pride to do that."
Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals for the Gators. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins had field goals of 50 and 53 yards to tie former Georgia kicker Billy Bennett's NCAA record of 87 career field goals.
Florida State scored 20 straight points to wipe out an early 13-0 deficit. Manuel threw a 6-yard TD pass to Nick O'Leary and the quarterback bootlegged in from a yard out with 8:30 remaining. When Dustin Hopkins kicked a 53-yard field goal with 4:24 left in the third, the Seminoles looked as if they were on their way.
But Florida dominated the fourth quarter.
Gillislee's go-ahead TD run, his second of the game, came after Florida's Dominque Easley recovered Manuel's fumble after he was nailed by Morrison.
It was a tough game for Manuel for the second straight year against the Gators. He threw for only 65 yards in a 21-7 win at Florida last season.
Florida dominated the first half, building a 13-0 lead before Florida State scored on the final play of the half when Dustin Hopkins kicked a 50-yard field goal into the wind.
Sturgis hit field goals of 39 and 45 yards and Gillislee scored on a 9-yard run moments after the Gators recovered a fumble on the kickoff by Florida State's Karlos Williams at the Seminoles 21.