For 12 years, Florida head coach Steve Spurrier may have been Enemy No. 1 for the garnet and gold faithful. On this day 20 years ago, Florida State football welcomed another Gators “head ball coach” to the rivalry but not in the most hospitable of ways.
In what would be Ron Zook’s debut against FSU, the Seminoles throttled Florida, 31-14.
Despite already clinching a 10th ACC title in 11 years, FSU was in the midst of another disappointing season as it arrived at Doak Campbell Stadium on Nov. 30, 2002. The 23rd-ranked Seminoles were just 8-4, but hadn’t lost to Florida at home since 1986. Florida was 8-3, ranked No. 15 in the country and on a 4-game winning streak.
After Adrian McPherson had been dismissed from the team, FSU went back to an inconsistent Chris Rix at quarterback. Rix played mistake-free and made enough plays.
Leon Washington rushed for 134 yards in the victory and it was his 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that broke a 3-3 tie and put FSU ahead for good. Rix finished just 13-for-29 passing for 192 yards, but found Anquan Boldin twice for touchdowns. Their 22-yard connection helped FSU take a 17-6 lead into the locker room.
Early in the second half, FSU built a commanding lead when Florida quarterback Rex Grossman’s pass was intercepted and returned 13 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Kendyll Pope. Down 24-6, Florida finally found the end zone late in the third as Grossman connected with OJ Small before a successful 2-point conversion.
It took FSU less than three minutes to answer. Rix’s 19-yard hookup with Boldin early in the fourth capped the scoring. Boldin led FSU with eight catches for 101 yards receiving. Rix added 83 yards rushing on 14 carries in the victory.
Garnet and Great
In addition to the pick-6, Pope led the FSU defense with eight total tackles. Travis Johnson finished with two sacks and four tackles for loss.
FSU would beat Florida again in 2003, but dropped the next six in the rivalry. Legendary head coach Bobby Bowden’s final victory over the Gators in Tallahassee came on this day two decades ago.