GAINESVILLE (AP) – Kelvin Benjamin shook off one tackler and then three more, bullying his way into the end zone to finish off Florida State’s most impressive play on a day filled with them.
Benjamin was clearly a mismatch – just like the game. Jameis Winston threw three touchdown passes to Benjamin in a 37-7 victory against rival Florida on Saturday.
“Tremendous,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “KB has real advantages with his size, speed and athleticism. He can be a very, very special player and he’s starting to develop into that guy.”
The Seminoles improved to 12-0 for the first time since 1999 and will earn a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game by beating Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this Saturday.
Florida, meanwhile, ended its worst season since 1979. The Gators (4-8) lost their final seven games and missed a bowl for the first time since 1990. Florida’s bowl streak had been the second-longest in the country, behind Florida State.
“We hit rock bottom this year,” Florida guard Max Garcia said. “I feel like the only way we can go is up.” The Seminoles were four-touchdown favorites in a lopsided matchup that lived up to advance billing.
Although the outcome was never in doubt, the Gators made it interesting early with some stout defense. They hit Winston several times, even late once, and stuffed FSU’s running game.
But with its offense floundering once again – Florida managed just three first downs in the first half – the defense eventually wore down. And Winston & Co. took advantage.
“His competitiveness is ridiculous,” Fisher said of Winston. “He’s a competitor. Nothing fazes that guy. He thrives on that. … The guy’s ability to learn and process information is what puts him over the top. He can think. He understands what he’s doing at all times. And when he makes a mistake, he can come off and tell you exactly why he did it, what he did or didn’t do right.”
Winston, a Heisman Trophy candidate, is being investigated for his role in an alleged rape. About the only thing that went wrong for FSU was a testy exchange between Winston and Fisher in the fourth quarter. Fisher was upset that Winston let the play clock wind down, forcing the team to call timeout. Winston screamed back at Fisher, who grabbed Winston’s facemask on the sideline. The coach and player downplayed it afterward.