GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin late in the second quarter to break open a defensive struggle and the second-ranked Seminoles went on to finish the regular season unbeaten with a 37-7 victory over the Florida Gators on Saturday in front of 90,454 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
FSU (12-0) set the school record for regular-season victories and matched the record for total victories, set when the Seminoles won their last national championship in 1999. The Seminoles have beaten Florida three out of four years under coach Jimbo Fisher, after the Gators won six in a row while Urban Meyer was the coach.
Winston finished the game by going 19 of 31 for 327 yards, his seventh game of 300 or more this season. Benjamin caught nine passes for 212 yards. The two also connected on a 4-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, and a 56-yard pass play in the third quarter set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman.
The FSU defense recovered two fumbles, both by quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg, and held the Gators to 193 total yards.
Mornhinweg, who was the Gators' third-team quarterback when the season started and had not taken a snap in a game until three weeks ago, finished 20 of 25 for 115 yards. He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to fullback Hunter Joyer with 13:39 left in the game to end a 14-play, 83-yard drive and keep alive the nation's second-longest streak of games without a shutout at 320.
The Seminoles will now play Duke in the ACC Championship game on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C. FSU remains on track to play in the BCS National Championship on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., but its immediate future remains murky as Tallahassee state attorney Willie Meggs continues to investigate a sexual assault allegation against Winston.
Meggs said last week that he may need until Dec. 10 to complete his investigation -- after the final BCS rankings are released and after the deadline for Heisman Trophy voting.
The Gators ended their season with a seven-game losing streak and with a 4-8 record, the first losing mark since going 0-10-1 in 1979. Florida also won't go to a bowl game for the first time since 1990 -- when the Gators were 9-2 but ineligible because of NCAA sanctions.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley gave coach Will Muschamp another vote of confidence during a pregame news conference in the stadium press box, saying that Muschamp "will fix this thing."
The Gators had 29 players miss one or more games due to injury, including their first two quarterbacks, Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy, plus first-team tailback Matt Jones, team defensive leader Dominique Easley and three starting offensive tackles.
Nursing a 3-0 lead and harassed by the Gators' defensive front most of the half, Winston finally started getting better protection and fired scoring passes of 45 yards with 4:24 left in the half and 29 yards with 24 seconds remaining. On the first score, Benjamin caught the ball over the middle and broke three tackles before getting into the end zone.
That score ended a 12-play, 96 yard drive in which Winston converted a third-and-26 with a 27-yard completion to wide receiver Kenny Shaw.
After forcing a punt, Winston guided the Seminoles to the second score of the quarter by going 74 yards in 1:42. Winston completed 5 of 6 passes for 69 yards on the march, with a 22-yard pass to tight end Nick O'Leary converting a third-and-3 the play before Benjamin's touchdown catch in the left corner of the end zone made it 17-0 at halftime.
Winston had completed only 4 of 7 passes for 35 yards before the two touchdown drives. He hit on 9-of-13 for 173 yards in staking the Seminoles to their halftime lead.
Before that, FSU could manage only a 49-yard field goal by Robert Aguayo. He added another from 40 yards in the third quarter and 28 yards in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: When QB Skyler Mornhinweg threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to FB Hunter Joyer early in the fourth quarter, it kept Florida's streak alive of having scored in 320 games in a row. It's the second-longest in the NCAA, after Michigan, which scored in its 360th game in a row against Ohio State. ... Florida State did not play Duke this season, its opponent in the ACC championship game next week. The Seminoles beat the Blue Devils 48-7 last season and are 18-0 lifetime against Duke. ... Florida suffered a huge blow early in the game when WR Trey Burton went out with an injured shoulder on his second carry. His first was a 50-yarder on a Wildcat play, and UF coaches had hoped to get him numerous snaps out of that formation during the game. ... With all of their injuries problems, the Gators should probably stay off motor scooters. For the second this season, a Florida player was knocked out of a game when DT Joey Ivie wrecked his earlier in the week and needed 25 stitches in his heel. Earlier this season, OT Tyler Moore knocked himself out for the rest of the schedule when he injured his arm in a cycle accident.