Three brutal mistakes by Florida's offense on Saturday night undercut its best defensive performance of the year.
Florida State capitalized on all three of those turnovers and beat Florida 21-7 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It was the Seminoles' first win in Gainesville since 2003, and they have wrestled control over rivalry that was firmly in Florida's grasp prior to last season.
"I'm extremely disappointed again today and in the season," coach Will Muschamp said.
"We're a soft football team. Self evaluation is hard, but that's the fact."
Florida fell to 6-6 and is in danger of its first losing season since 1979. The Gators are bowl eligible and will find out their post-season destination Dec. 4.
The Gators held Florida State to 95 yards of total offense, which was the lowest amount they had allowed all year.
However, their own offense managed only 54 rushing yards on 33 tries. They lost 49 yards on sacks and negative run plays and finished with 184 yards of offense.
It was at least the third time this season that Florida's defense delivered a performance that should have been good enough to win, but was not. The Gators held South Carolina and Auburn to 17 points each, but lost to both games.
The Gators' only touchdown came with 4:32 remaining. It saved them from being shut out for the first time since 1986.
"It's a very frustrating time to be a Florida Gator right now," Muschamp said. "I know patience is a bad word, and I'm not asking for it, but sometimes you have to be realistic."
Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, formerly of Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, hit Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass for that lone Florida touchdown. As a freshman, Brissett has had a hand in four touchdowns.
On the Gators' second possession of the game, FSU cornerback Greg Reid picked off UF starting quarterback John Brantley at the Florida 32-yard line and the Seminoles (8-4) scored three minutes later for a 7-0 lead.
Brantley set up the Seminoles for another easy score later in the first quarter on another interception. The Gators were moving into scoring range before Mike Harris intercepted Brantley at the 7-yard line and brought it back 89 yards. Florida State scored three plays later to go up 14-0.
The third debilitating error was an interception by Brissett, which Terrence Parks ran back 29 yards for a touchdown with 12:20 left.
Florida suffered severe injuries, including a blow that knocked Brantley out of the game in the second quarter. Linebacker Darrin Kitchens was carried out on a stretcher after apparently hurting his neck on a scary play that stopped the game for several minutes.
With 1:36 left before halftime, Brantley hit Dunbar for 21 yards, and it was his final throw of the night. Florida State's Brandon Jenkins hit him helmet-to-helmet, which knocked both of them out of the game.
Brantley immediately dropped to the ground and took his helmet off, revealing a cut on the side of his face. He struggled to walk straight as trainers escorted him to the locker room.
In his final home game as a Gator, Brantley completed 9 of 15 passes for 104 yards and threw a career-high three interceptions.
As disturbing as Brantley's injury felt, the one to Kitchens was worse. On Florida's kickoff to open the second half, Seminoles fullback Chad Abram hit Kitchens in the helmet and quieted the crowd of 90,798 as Kitchens lay motionless near the south end zone.
The game was delayed while about a dozen people tended to Kitchens. As they carted him off the field, he raised his left hand to signal that he was conscious.
Muschamp said he did not know the extent of the injury, but did not think it was serious.