Nick O’Leary scores two touchdowns as FSU defeats rival Florida to finish regular season undefeated

Written by Danny Morales
TALLAHASSEE, Fla — Nick O’Leary had 52 yards and two touchdown catches as the Florida State Seminoles defeated the in-state rival Florida Gators 24-19 in the senior classes final game in Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw two interceptions on the Seminoles first two drive of the game, but the Gators could only turn the good field position into two field goals.

Interceptions would be a trend in the game as Winston finished with four and 125 yards to go with his two touchdowns, while Gators quarterback Treon Harris had two interceptions of his own.

“After my third pick, I told them I’m going to protect the ball,” said Winston of what he told his defense after the interceptions. “It’s crazy to throw three picks in the first quarter. That’s wild.”

Florida extended their lead to 9-0 late in the first quarter when kicker Austin Hardin hit his third field goal of the quarter for the Gators.

Florida State’s defense came up big various times against Florida, as they held the Gators to only one touchdown for the game, despite the good field position UF was getting due to the turnovers.

Terrance Smith moves through defenders as he runs back an interception 94 yards for a touchdown.  (Photo Credit: Colt Cardwell / The SkyBoat)

“Defense i thought was outstanding in the game.” said Fisher after the game. “After all the critical turnovers in the first half it was critical to hold all those to field goals, they were amazing they really were, they did a tremendous job.”

Winston threw a third interception late in the opening quarter, setting up Florida with the ball at the FSU 9-yard line, but Treon Harris was intercepted by Terrance Smith on the following play and  Terrance Smith returned the pick 94-yards for a touchdown, cutting the Gators lead to 9-7.

“Terrance Smith made a great play there,” said Fisher of the pick-six. “But the whole defense in general played a great football game.”

The Seminoles carried the momentum of the Smith pick-six into the second quarter, as Florida State scored 14 points on two Winston to O’Leary touchdowns to give them a 21-9 lead.

With his two scoring catches O’Leary finished the regular season with five touchdowns and 517 yards.

“I’m just blessed to have him as a tight end,” said Winston. “I wish we could line him up in the slot and throw all types of routes as a wide receiver, because he’s so talented.”

Florida State owned the running game throughout the matchup, gaining 181 yards on the ground while being led by freshman Dalvin Cook’s 144 yards.

“They’re so dynamic in the backfield,” said Winston of his stable of running backs. “The way that those guys just bounce back and keep playing. In the beginning of the year people tried to say Florida State’s running game isn’t good enough.

FSU players celebrate with the Gator head trophy after their 24-19 win over Florida.  (Photo Credit: Don Montague / The SkyBoat)
“We always fight back with the critics and the haters, showing people we can do everything.”

The Gators did take advantage of a blocked punt and turned the good field position into their only touchdown, cutting the Seminoles lead to 21-16 before halftime.

Florida started the second half by adding another Hardin field goal, making it a two-point game early in the third quarter. The Gators field goal would be the only score of the third quarter, as Florida State would take a 21-19 lead into the final 15 minutes of play. The Seminoles added a Roberto Aguayo field goal late in the fourth to bring the score to the final of 24-19.

FSU’s defense did a good job of holding Florida scoreless during the final quarter. The Gators only gained 59 yards of total offense during the fourth and turned the ball over on downs as they went for the win on their final possession.

With the win Florida State extends their winning streak to 28 games, while improving to 23-34-2 all-time against Florida.

The Seminoles will now prepare for Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

“Our time span isn’t over yet, so I’ve got so much more to learn about this team,” said Winston after the game. “Obviously the ACC Championship game is going to be a big game for us.”

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