Florida St. nips Florida

Posted: Sunday, November 30, 2003

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) They played for 3 1/2 hours and brawled for a few minutes more.

All the good and bad college football had to offer was on display Saturday at The Swamp. When it was over, No. 9 Florida State walked away with the 38-34 win and No. 11 Florida left crestfallen, wondering if maybe one had been stolen away.

P.K. Sam will go down in history for the twisting, whirling, falling-down pass route he ran to make the game-winning, 52-yard touchdown catch with 55 seconds left.

The day, however, will be remembered for much more including a postgame melee at midfield that police used pepper spray to break up, and a series of officials' calls, ranging from questionable to awful, that will have Gators fans howling for years.

Florida State (10-2) reached 10 victories for the first time since 2000. Florida (8-4) had its five-game winning streak halted, along with its slim hopes of making it to the Southeastern Conference title game.

Neither team will forget this classic soon.

''It's my 28th game playing the University of Florida, and I don't think I've seen a better one than that,'' Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden said.

Sam's touchdown catch might have been the play of the year for Florida State, which has won five of six against its bitter rival.

Going long, Sam turned to his right at about the 20, but didn't see Chris Rix's high, hanging pass. So, Sam spun left, spotted the ball, then pushed right against Florida defender Guss Scott in the end zone, where he made the catch while falling backward. It was Rix's third touchdown pass. He also ran for a score and improved to 2-1 against the Gators.

''I think DBs kind of give up after about 40 yards,'' Sam said. ''I looked up, the ball was in the air. I was like, 'Please catch this,' and I held on and that was it.''

Unfortunately, the emotions of the great game caught up with the players: When the Seminoles went to midfield to celebrate the win, they were greeted by the Gators, who didn't appreciate them jumping on their ''F'' at midfield.

Punches were thrown, helmets went flying.

''Guys started pushing and jumping, and things just went crazy,'' Florida linebacker Channing Crowder said.

Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley and FSU sports information director Rob Wilson jumped in the middle to separate the 100-or-so players, and police used pepper spray to disperse them.

''I have no idea what happened,'' said Florida coach Ron Zook, who was leaving the field when the fight started. ''But I promise you, if our guys were involved, we'll get it straightened out.''

There were no immediate reports on injuries from the fight. And hopefully, once tempers settle, this game will be remembered more for the show on the field than what happened afterward.

The lead changed hands four times in the fourth quarter. With 2:55 left, Florida went ahead 34-31 on Ben Troupe's 26-yard touchdown catch from Chris Leak in the back of the end zone. Troupe got one foot down; the official stared hard at the play, and initially brought his arms to the side, as though he were going to call it incomplete.

But he raised his hands to signal a touchdown, one of the few calls that went Florida's way on a day that will surely not grade out well for referee Jack Childress' ACC officiating crew.

The crew made at least three questionable calls on fumbles calling players down when they weren't or vise versa and absolutely blew at least two more, including giving Seminoles tailback Leon Washington credit for a fumble recovery near the Florida goal line even though Crowder sprinted out of the pile with the ball.

Crowder spiked the ball and drew a personal foul while many in the crowd chanted obscenities at the refs.

Bowden played it coy when asked about the calls.

''I sure do like them when they go to me,'' he said.

Zook and Foley took the high road, but a handful of the Gators who felt this game was stolen from them weren't so gracious.

No. 5 Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 17

ATLANTA Georgia did its part. And everything else went the Bulldogs way, sending them back to the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Freshman center Nick Jones fell on a fumble in the end zone, Bryan McClendon blocked a punt to set up another touchdown and No. 5 Georgia defeated Georgia Tech for the third year in a row, 34-17 Saturday.

The Bulldogs (10-2) came into the day needing two things to happen. They had to beat Georgia Tech, which they did convincingly, and Tennessee had to knock off Kentucky to force a three-way tie for the SEC East title with Georgia and Florida.

Tennessee won 20-7 and when Florida lost 38-34 to Florida State that wrapped up the title for the Bulldogs. The matchup against LSU will be made official Sunday.

Georgia Tech (6-6) trailed 20-3 at halftime, their hopes of a comeback essentially snuffed out when freshman quarterback Reggie Ball trotted to the locker room with a possible concussion.

No. 7 Tennessee 20, Kentucky 7

LEXINGTON, Ky. Cedric Houston ran for 87 yards and a touchdown, and Tennessee (10-2, 6-2) used a dominating defense to hold Kentucky to 187 yards and clinch a share of the SEC East division title with Georgia and Florida.

Kentucky (4-8, 1-7) led 7-3 at halftime but recorded only five first downs in the second half in the final game of its first season under coach Rich Brooks. Four of Tennessee's last five opponents have scored seven points or fewer.

Tennessee finished with 270 yards of offense in cold, windy conditions. But the offense turned in a 13-play, 66-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to seal the win on Houston's 10-yard run with 1:27 left.

Tennessee's only touchdown to that point came on an 18-yard pass from Casey Clausen to Mark Jones 90 seconds into the second half.

No. 10 Miami 28, No. 20 Pittsburgh 14

PITTSBURGH Tyrone Moss and Jarrett Payton became the latest running backs to exploit Pitt's weak rush defense, running for more than 100 yards each, and Miami locked up a share of its eighth Big East title and a BCS bowl.

Miami (10-2, 6-1) exited the Big East for the ACC the same dominating way it entered in 1992 on top, with everybody else playing catchup. The Hurricanes officially share the conference title with West Virginia (8-4, 6-1), but it's Miami that's heading to a big bowl almost certainly the hometown Orange Bowl, where they last played during the 1994 season.

Moss ran for touchdowns of 30 and 6 yards and Payton had a 1-yard touchdown run as Miami scored on three consecutive first-half possessions to turn a 7-0 deficit into a 21-7 lead.

Larry Fitzgerald was limited to three catches for 26 yards for Pittsburgh (8-4, 5-2).

No. 18 Boise State 56, Nevada 3

BOISE, Idaho Ryan Dinwiddie threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for two scores as Boise State clinched its second straight Western Athletic Conference championship.

Boise State (11-1, 7-0) took a 42-0 halftime lead on its way to its 17th straight conference victory and 18th straight win overall at home.

Nevada (6-6, 4-4) had just two first downs in the first half.

No. 19 TCU 20, SMU 13

DALLAS Robert Merrill ran for 98 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown with 7:18 left, and TCU rebounded from its BCS dream-shattering loss by beating SMU (0-12).

The Horned Frogs (11-1) have their most wins since 1938, but won't get to play in a Bowl Championship Series game or even the Liberty Bowl because of their 40-28 loss at Southern Mississippi on Nov. 20.

Merrill's game-clinching run came on the last of his 15 carries when he took a handoff to the right, sidestepped into an opening and ran untouched into the end zone. His 1,081 rushing yards are a TCU freshman record.

Virginia 35, No. 21 Virginia Tech 21

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. Wali Lundy ran for three touchdowns and caught a pass for another, helping Virginia end its four-year losing streak against Virginia Tech.

The Cavaliers (7-5) scored 21 straight points in the second half, twice converting on fourth down from the 1. Lundy caught a 1-yard pass for the tying touchdown, and ran for a score to make it 28-14.

No. 22 Bowling Green 31, Toledo 23

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio Josh Harris threw for three touchdowns and caught another one, leading Bowling Green to a spot in the Mid-American Conference title game.

The Falcons scored on their first four possessions in the second half after trailing 14-7 after two quarters.

Harris did it all, accounting for 379 of Bowling Green's 433 offensive yards against Toledo (8-4, 6-2 MAC).

Bowling Green (10-2, 7-1) will host No. 15 Miami of Ohio on Thursday for the conference title.

No. 24 West Virginia 45, Temple 28

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Jason Colson rushed for two touchdowns in his first career start and West Virginia clinched a share of its first Big East title since 1993.

Lance Frazier returned a punt for a touchdown and set up another score with an interception for West Virginia (8-4, 6-1 Big East), which won its seventh straight game and is expected to be invited to the Gator Bowl to take on Maryland.

Quarterback Walter Washington ran for 117 yards and four scores for Temple (1-11, 0-7).



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