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#7 Florida State has recently been inching dangerously close to an upset of
rival and second-ranked Florida, whom they haven’t defeated in at least
seven years. And Friday night under the lights in Tallahassee, they got as
close as is possible, tying UF 20-20 in an 80-minute battle between the
South’s top title contenders.
Scoring opened with an exchange of penalty kicks from both team’s leaders - Florida’s Matias Groetaers and FSU’s Dylan Hamilton, with Groetaers’ coming first. Florida recaptured the lead with a Groetaers try, which he converted himself. FSU rebutted with a Dan Sammons touch down converted by Hamilton, making the halftime score 10-10.
As they did in the first half, Florida struck first in the second with a Marcus Ruecker try, but the conversion was missed. This time unable to fully match UF’s score, the Seminoles settled for a second Hamilton penalty, drawing FSU within two at 15-13. Their next scoring opportunity, another penalty attempt from Hamilton, sailed errant. However, Florida’s counterattack was thwarted when Seth Dobyns intercepted an ill-advised pass and scored directly under UF's posts. Hamilton hit the conversion, giving the ‘Noles a 20-15 lead near the 70-minute mark.
Florida used superior setpiece and pack play to dominate possession much of the game, but FSU’s defense had prevented UF from parlaying that into a lead. “The pack was pretty dominating, and we just weren’t able to take advantage of it,” Florida coach Ken Simmons said.
On the game’s final play in injury time, Florida finally capitalized. After drawing in the Seminole defense, UF moved the ball to the perimeter where Cory Penca had enough room to dart into the corner for the tying try with time elapsed.
“Once Corey got the ball, you could tell he was going to get past them and get that angle,” said Simmons. “He got the ball about 10-15 meters out with enough space to get to the corner. I knew they weren’t going to stop him.”
“We had defended almost the entire second half, and I was just hoping we could hold out just one more time to get possession,” added Hamilton. “Once I saw them spinning it wide I kind of knew what was coming.”
Florida’s final conversion attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the outcome a 20-20 tie. And while FSU would certainly rather be celebrating a win the rest of the weekend, they're happy to at least not be sulking over another loss to Florida.
“Had a chance to win it there. All we had to do was kick the ball out of bounds, and we just couldn’t secure the ball to get it out of play, but it’s better than getting another loss against those guys,” said Hamilton.
“We could just taste the victory, and you thought the monkey was going to be off our back, and then there it was. It was pretty disappointing, but I thought the boys played well and hats off to Florida. They played well the full 80 minutes.”
Florida and Florida State meet once more in conference play, and judging by their dominating performances over the rest of the league so far, Friday night will likely prove to be just the first half of a 160-minute match to determine the South, with the second half kicking off April 9 in Gainesville.
“I immediately kind of just looked at the calendar and circled that date,” said Hamilton. “That’s basically the whole season there. That’s the trip to Bowling Green (for the National Sweet 16).”
UF tries: Matias Groetaers, Marcus Ruecker, Cory Penca
FSU tries: Dan Sammons, Seth Dobyns
Pens: Dylan Hamilton (2)
Cons: Hamilton (2)