The 2010 edition of the Florida State-Florida rivalry didn’t have the national championship implications that so many meetings during the 1990’s seemed to, but Jimbo Fisher’s introduction to the rivalry as a head coach would change the football landscape in the state of Florida.
Entering the November 27th, 2010 contest, Florida had defeated FSU six straight times with the previous three decided by an average margin of 30 points. Over the six years that the Seminoles had fallen to the Gators, FSU had won the ACC just once and on three occasions, failed to finish ranked. Florida on the other hand, had won a pair of national championship and three BCS bowls during that span.
The Seminoles entered the contest with a record of 8-3 and ranked 22nd in the country while Florida had come in 7-4. Still, it was the Gators who issued the game’s first major blow answering a FSU field goal from Dustin Hopkins with a 20-yard touchdown pass from John Brantley to Robert Clark on their opening drive less than five minutes in.
Florida led 7-3 after a quarter, but Gator mistakes early in the second allowed FSU to take control of the contest. Following a Chris Rainey fumble inside the Florida 20-yard-line, the Seminoles needed just two plays to go ahead for good as fullback Lonnie Pryor scored from nine yards out.
FSU snuffed out a fake punt attempt on the ensuing Gator drive which was immediately followed by the first of three touchdown passes from Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder’s 39-yard strike to Rodney Smith padded the lead to 17-7. His 15-yard touchdown to Taiwan Easterling on the ensuing FSU possession capped a 12-play, 73-yard drive and put the Seminoles ahead, 24-7.
Florida threatened to get points before halftime, but FSU cornerback Mike Harris picked off Brantley to thwart the scoring opportunity. The exclamation point on the victory came on FSU’s first drive of the second half as Ponder found Willie Haulstead for a 29-yard touchdown.
The third touchdown pass of Ponder’s 221-yard passing day would be the final score of the game as FSU cruised to a 31-7 victory over its arch-rivals. The Florida State defense held Florida to fewer than 300 yards of offense while forcing four turnovers.
“To be able to play the way we did, was great,” said FSU starting defensive tackle Everett Dawkins. “Any time someone like Florida or Miami has a streak like that and you’re able to go in and win, it’s a great feeling.”
Florida State would fall to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship the following week, but would notch its first 10-win season since 2003 with a 26-17 victory over South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Seminoles have since won three of four against the Gators while winning three ACC titles and the 2013 national championships. From 2012-2014, FSU set a school-record by winning 29 games in a row.
“Being able to beat Florida for the first time in six years, that was big,” Dawkins said. “It definitely showed that the times were changing.”
Florida head coach Urban Meyer would resign at the end of the 2010 season after six seasons in Gainesville and was replaced by Will Muschamp. After going just 28-21 in less than four years, Muschamp was fired at the end of the 2014 regular season. First-year head coach Jim McElwain will coach the Gators against Florida State for the first time on Saturday night.