Updated: Saturday, October 23, 2004 6:37 PM EDT
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Mississippi St 38, (19) Florida 31
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MISSISSIPPI ST. BULLDOGS
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STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Jerious Norwood made Ron Zook pay for a blitz and gave Sylvester Croom his first Southeastern Conference win.

Norwood's 37-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left lifted Mississippi State to a 38-31 upset of No. 19 Florida in a Southeastern Conference battle.

When the teams met two years ago, Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC East) rolled to a 52-0 rout at Gainesville and was more than a three-touchdown favorite in this one. Perhaps looking ahead to next week's game against sixth-ranked Georgia, the Gators endured their most disappointing loss under Zook, who was 8-5 in each of his first two seasons.

"This is embarrassing to us," Zook said. "We thought we were ready to play. I am lost to how we played on defense, for them to rush for 251 yards."

The Gators were clearly not prepared for Norwood, who rushed for a career-high 201 yards last week in a loss to UAB and stung Florida for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

The last one hurt the most. Zook called for a blitz with Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3 West) slightly out of field goal range at the Gators 37.

But Croom elected not to pass, instead relying on Norwood to get the necessary yardage. The 6-2, 202-pound junior justified Croom's faith by juking past the onrushing linemen and spinning free to his left before diving into the end zone.

The win snapped an eight-game conference losing streak for the Bulldogs, dating to last year. Croom, the first black coach in SEC history, had lost five straight since a season-opening win over Tulane.

"This is the greatest win of my life," Croom said. "I told the guys if we are willing to pay the price, we will have days like this. And today was a great day for us."

Florida had tied the game at 31-31 on a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Chris Leak with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs then failed to convert on a 4th-and-4 play at the Florida 36 with 2:39 left. But after a 19-yard pass from Leak to O.J. Small, safety Jeramie Johnson made a diving interception at the Mississippi State 44 to set up the winning score.

Ciatrick Fason rushed for 143 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown, for Florida.

"Right now we just feel embarrassed," Florida linebacker Travis Harris said. "We should have won. Our team is better than this. We just did not get the job done."

Leak completed 20-of-35 passes for 260 yards, including touchdowns of 46 and nine yards to Chad Jackson.

Omarr Conner scored on a two-yard run and hit McKinley Scott with a three-yard touchdown to help Mississippi State build a 17-7 lead. Jackson's nine-yard scoring catch with 57 seconds left in the second quarter pulled the Gators within 17-14 at halftime.

After Florida tied the game on a 50-yard field goal by Mike Leach with 12:16 left in the third quarter, Jonathan Lowe returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 24-17 lead.

Fason tied the game again with his 55-yard touchdown run with 6:23 left in the third quarter.

But Mississippi State put together a 17-play, 80-yard drive which culminated in a one-yard scoring run by Norwood with 9:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"We finally just put it all together," said Conner, who threw for 158 yards and rushed for 50.


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