As Feleipe Franks watched his third interception of the day land in the arms Matthew Thomas, the only thing Florida’s quarterback could do was stare.
He stood motionless on the 17-yard line, not even attempting to pursue Thomas as the Florida State linebacker made an open beeline for UF’s end zone.
Turnovers were the difference maker on Saturday afternoon in the Gators’ season-ending 38-22 defeat to FSU.
Franks — a redshirt freshman making his eighth start of 2017 — recorded a career-high three picks as well as one fumble, leading to 28 points off turnovers for the Seminoles.
Florida State defensive back Levonta Taylor registered two interceptions, one of which he returned for an 18-yard touchdown, and a forced fumble from defensive lineman Brian Burns resulted in another FSU defensive score from linebacker Jacob Pugh.
“Throwing the ball today wasn’t very good for us,” interim coach Randy Shannon said. “Can’t win games that way.”
The Gators, as a whole, finished with 280 yards of offense compared to the Seminoles’ 216. Franks completed 18-of-39 passes for 184 yards and running back Mark Thompson added 63 yards and one touchdown on nine carries.
Florida’s defense limited Florida State to 3.9 yards per play and 4-of-13 third down conversions. FSU quarterback James Blackman threw for 128 yards on 10-of-21 completions while the running back duo of Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers were held to 3.5 yards per carry.
“We had a lot of seniors step up,” linebacker David Reese said of UF’s defensive performance. “We was just excited to try and get those guys our best shot.”
Despite relatively even performances from the Gators and Seminoles, Florida’s high volume of turnovers was the one discrepancy it couldn’t overcome.
Burns’ forced fumble recovered by Pugh for a 16-yard touchdown set the tone early for Florida State, giving it a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the first quarter.
Two interceptions from Franks later in the half then set up a pair of touchdowns for FSU: a 21-yard pass from Blackman to receiver Nyqwan Murray and an 18-yard pick-six from Taylor, the first of his career.
“I don’t think I ever did that,” Franks said of his two turnovers returned for touchdowns. “It’s something for me to learn from and get better.”
One final turnover from Franks halfway through the fourth quarter — his 29-yard interception to Thomas — erased any chance of Florida ending its current losing streak to the Seminoles.
UF hasn’t defeated its in-state rival since 2012, getting outscored 157-63 over that stretch.
The Gators (4-7) also end their season with a losing record for just the second time since 1980.