TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Ticker) -- Ciatrick Fason and Jarvis Herring helped outgoing Florida coach Ron Zook accomplish something Steve Spurrier never could - a victory at Florida State.
Fason ran for 103 yards and a late touchdown and Herring intercepted Chris Rix with eight seconds left as the Gators beat the eighth-ranked Seminoles here for the first time in 18 years, 20-13.
The embattled Zook was fired on October 25 after an embarrassing loss at Mississippi State - a move heavily criticized by his players - but was allowed to finish the season.
"I am happy for our players, our coaches, the Gator fans - those who are true Gator fans," Zook said. "These guys never quit."
Zook would not say whether he will coach Florida in its forthcoming bowl game.
"I'm not thinking about that right now," he said. "It's been a tough month. I'm just very happy about how this football team responded tonight."
The team rallied around Zook and made sure he went out a winner in his final regular-season game, as well as snap the school's 0-7-1 streak at Doak Campbell Stadium since a 17-13 triumph in 1986.
"We've played under a lot of adversity before. It was good to come out and win this game tonight," said Gators quarterback Chris Leak, who completed 19-of-39 passes for 231 yards with one TD and one interception. "We are the first Gators team to leave Tallahassee with a victory in a long time. We're glad the coach got a win in this rivalry."
The Gators (7-4) also all but killed any hope the Seminoles (8-3) had of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference's automatic BCS bowl berth. The Seminoles are the clubhouse leader at 6-2 in the ACC, but were they to finish in at least a three-way tie with No. 13 Miami, No. 15 Virginia Tech and No. 18 Virginia, the tiebreaker goes to the possessor of the highest BCS ranking.
The Seminoles boasted the nation's No. 1 rushing defense, yielding just 61.9 yards per game, and allowed just 29 yards on the ground in the first half. But after the break, the Gators gained 111 rushing yards, with Fason producing eight on a touchdown run that opened a 20-10 lead with 4:59 left.
"We won it for the coach," Fason said. "We knew we had to put some more points on the board. The offensive line opened up the middle and I was determined to score. This was a great team win tonight."
After Gary Cismesia missed a pair of second-half field goals, Xavier Beitia - the former starter - entered the contest and nailed a career-long 52-yard field goal with 3:48 left to pull the Seminoles within a touchdown.
They got the ball back at their 45 with 1:03 remaining and Rix - who replaced the ineffective Wyatt Sexson late in the third quarter - quickly moved the Seminoles into the Florida red zone. But on 4th-and-10 from the 18, he forced a pass into traffic that was intercepted by free safety Herring, and the Gators ran out the clock.
"We were able to do some good things, but we came up short," said Rix, who was 9-of-16 for 150 yards and a touchdown. "I am proud that we didn't give up, but it's not a good feeling at all."
The Gators dumped water on an elated Zook and carried him on their shoulders.
Prior to the game the field was named after Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden in a brief ceremony.
"We missed too many field goals to keep up with them," Bowden said. "There were a lot of lost opportunities - dropped balls, penalties at crucial times. As you can tell, I am not very happy about this."
Entering the game, Florida State had not surrendered a scoring drive of 90 yards all season, but Leak drove the Gators 97 yards on their second possession, which culminated in a 13-yard touchdown to Chad Jackson that gave Florida the lead for good. The Seminoles came into the game averaging 160 rushing yards but were held to zero in the first half and 34 total.
"I felt that our defense was coming together in the second half of the Georgia game," Zook said. "Anytime you can hold this offense to less than 50 yards on the ground, you have done something special on the defensive side of the ball."
After Florida's Matt Leach made it 10-0 with a 38-yard field goal six minutes into the second quarter, a pair of Gator turnovers by Leak kept the score close. He was intercepted in the end zone by Seminoles cornerback Bryant McFadden and fumbled inside the Florida 40, leading to a 20-yard field goal by Cismesia with 17 seconds left in the half.
Leach's 21-yard field goal made it 13-3 with 11:52 remaining before Rix avoided a sack and connected on a 27-yard TD toss to Chauncey Stovall with 8 1/2 minutes left to pull Florida State within 13-10. Stovall had 11 catches for 181 yards, both career highs.