I'm about to write something I think even the most ardent of Florida State football fans won't dispute.
Florida's defense deserved a better fate Saturday night.
I'm not saying the Seminoles didn't fight hard to earn their 21-7 victory in The Swamp. Not at all. Florida State's defense was tremendous as well.
But the Gator D may have played college football's second-best game in a losing effort this season, behind only Alabama in its 9-6 "Game of the Century" loss to LSU.
The 'Noles finished with 95 total yards and just seven first downs. All three touchdowns should be credited to the defense, which returned two interceptions inside the UF 20, leading to scores each time, and another for a TD.
Florida's defense recorded 11 tackles-for-loss, four of which were sacks. It also forced four fumbles (only recovering one). It was a brilliant, if unrewarded, performance.
Quite simply, FSU's offense took advantage of opportunities presented to it, but did little else.
Sometimes, that's all it takes.
On to the Gator grades...
It was an ugly, ugly night for Gator quarterbacks.
John Brantley and Jacoby Brissett combined to go 14-of-29 for 131 yards with one touchdown (by Brissett) and four interceptions.
Playing in his final game at Florida Field, Brantley finished 9-of-15 for 104 yards with two of his three interceptions directly leading to touchdowns by the Seminoles.
After Brantley was forced out of the contest with a concussion, Brissett came in and went 4-of-13 for 27 yards with an interception, and Terrance Parks returned 29 yards for a touchdown. A bright spot for the true freshman from Palm Beach was a six-yard scoring pass to Quinton Dunbar.
In a relative inconsequential stat, Trey Burton played a few snaps at quarterback and was 1-for-1 for negative-one yards. He also was tackled for a negative-14 yard loss on a 4th-and-1 try from the FSU 15 in the second quarter. In fairness, he was stuffed at the line and tried to run around and make a play, but was tackled for a 14-yard loss by Parks.
Florida's running backs had a tough time finding space against the Seminoles, combining for 65 yards and no touchdowns on 25 carries. A slight positive: They went without a fumble.
Playing in his final game at The Swamp, Chris Rainey did a standing backflip during pregame ceremonies and then finished the night with a team-high 42 yards on 15 carries (2.8 ypc). The product of prep powerhouse Lakeland (Fla.) High School also had a game-best four receptions, but those totaled just five yards. He ran hard, but there just wasn't much room.
In his last home game, Jeff Demps had a forgettable contest, carrying four times for negative-eight yards.
A major positive was the performance of true freshman fullback Hunter Joyer.
He finished with 30 yards on three carries, including a 23-yard burst near the UF goal line that was the longest (by 10 yards) of the game for either team.
Mike Gillislee, likely the starting tailback for the 2012 team, added three carries for two yards.
Trey Burton's two carries for negative-11 yards don't count here because one rush came on a fake field goal when he was the holder, and the second came with him at quarterback. He also had a five-yard reception.
In all, the Gator receivers and tight ends combined to catch nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Playing in place of injured starter Jordan Reed, true freshman tight end A.C. Leonard had a nice night, catching three passes for a game-high 65 yards. That's as many receiving yards as FSU had as a team. He did have a drop as well.
With Reed and Leonard set to return and two of the nation's top 10 prep tight ends committed to sign letters of intent in February, UF looks pretty loaded at the position for the future.
Receiver Quinton Dunbar had three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown, and Omarius Hines added three grabs for 15 yards.
Without watching the tape and/or speaking with coaches, I can't say whether any of the Gators' four interceptions were the result of a receiver running the wrong route or making some other mistake, so they get the benefit of the doubt.
Even though it isn't much in the way of praise, the Gator offensive line outplayed their Florida State counterparts.
Against the Seminoles, Florida produced 184 yards of offense (130 passing) and 11 first downs (two via penalty). The Gators averaged 3.0 yards a play and weren't flagged for holding all night.
The UF line allowed just two sacks (both on Jacoby Brissett), totaling 16 yards. However, FSU finished the night with 12 tackles for loss.
The Gators never were able to truly counter the speed FSU had on defense (the same can be said the other way around).
Making a comparison, Florida State would get a D- or an F for its offensive line play.
It was an absolutely awesome performance on the defensive front by the Gators.
The only reason I can't give a perfect score was an inopportune personal foul Ronald Powell picked up in the first quarter with Florida State near the Gator goal line. There, UF had stopped FSU on the 1 with fourth down upcoming. The penalty gave the Seminoles a first down and led to a touchdown, instead of what probably would have been a field goal.
Aside from that, it's tough to find any flaws.
Counting the four sacks E.J. Manuel took, Florida State averaged 0.7 yards-a-carry on 46 attempts, with no one averaging more than 2.9 ypc.
Sharrif Floyd finished with six tackles, with half-of-one coming for the loss of a yard. Jaye Howard had five tackles, two of which totaled a loss of six yards (including a five-yard sack) and a fumble recovery.
Powell finished with five tackles, two of which resulted in a loss of 18 yards (including a six-yard sack) and a forced fumble. Before leaving with an injury, Dominique Easley had two tackles, including a shared five-yard sack.
William Green added two tackles, as did Earl Okine (one of his was for the loss of a yard). Omar Hunter and Leon Orr finished with a tackle apiece.
The linebackers played brilliantly and only will be marked down slightly by a personal foul called on Jon Bostic.
Jelani Jenkins led the way with a game-high 11 tackles, two of which totalled a loss of 21 yards (including an 11-yard sack). Bostic added five tackles, while Michael Taylor finished with three tackles, including one for the loss of five yards, and a forced fumble.
Lerentee McCray also had half a sack, as FSU finished with just 10 more offensive yards (95) than penalty yards and had to punt nine times.
Just like the defensive line and linebackers, UF's secondary played very well. Perhaps the only nitpicks were no turnovers forced and a dropped interception by Matt Elam.
But that's it.
Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel completed 6-of-13 passes for 65 yards with zero touchdowns, and no receiver for the Seminoles had more than two receptions for 27 yards.
Elam led the way with eight tackles (including sharing in a tackle for the loss of two yards). The sophomore safety also broke up two passes and forced a fumble. Look for Elam on the 2012 preseason All-SEC team.
Jaylen Watkins finished with four tackles, including one that went for a loss of 12 yards.
Safeties Pop Saunders and Josh Evans had two tackles apiece, and Saunders also forced a fumble.
This was a really nice effort from a group that has had to recover from the loss of starting cornerback Marcus Roberson to a season-ending injury a couple of weeks back.
Special teams provided the scariest moment of the night, as backup linebacker Darrin Kitchens had to be carted off the field after running into an FSU player on the kickoff to open the second half.
He was held in Shands Hospital overnight and was released on Sunday with a concussion. That is good news, as it looked bad when he was laying motionless on the field.
As far as special teams play goes, it was a quiet night for senior kicker Caleb Sturgis, who kicked no field goals and made his only PAT. He did line up for a field goal, but it was a fake that Trey Burton ran for a first down.
In his introduction to the Florida-Florida State rivalry, true freshman punter Kyle Christy had a busy game. He punted nine times for an average of 40 yards with a long of 50.
Despite FSU punting nine times, Pop Saunders had just two returns, one for no yards and another for 20. Jeff Demps returned one kickoff for 16 yards.
The Gators covered punts relatively well, allowing Greg Reid 45 yards on five return, a total skewed by a 39-yard return he had when Christy's longest punt allowed Reid, who also had two interceptions and some space to roam. Those things just happen sometimes.
Lamarcus Joyner, a prep teammate of UF's Cody Riggs at traditional powerhouse Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (Michael Irvin's alma mater), had one kickoff return for 34 yards against UF.
The gameplan was a good one, with Dan Quinn and his fellow defensive coaches deserving kudos for the strategies they implemented.
As for the offense, you really can't fault the coaching staff for erroneous throws and the difficulties there were in blocking the Seminoles speed. Florida State's defenders made some big plays, and Florida's offensive players had some miscues.
The Gators were flagged just four times for 25 yards, so that showed excellent discipline in a game packed full of emotion. You don't see that very often in a team as young as Florida's.
Something that could be considered a negative in intangibles is the fact that two players who probably should have been Gators contributed a great deal for Florida State.
Three years ago, Greg Reid was a UF commitment who seemed very gun-ho about donning orange and blue.
However, late in the recruiting process while watching a Florida basketball game in the O'Connell Center, Reid was photographed multiple times appearing to look unhappy and disinterested. Soon after, he announced he was no longer committed to the Gators.
A few weeks later, he signed a national letter of intent with FSU.
On Saturday night against UF, Reid picked off two passes and returned a punt 39 yards while, ummm...verbalizing his feelings for much of the contest.
And Seminoles true freshman defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan may not have had a big game statistically, but he spent a great deal of time in the Florida backfield disrupting Florida's offense.
I covered Jernigan when he was a standout for Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High School, playing for Tim Tebow's prep coach, Craig Howard.
Jernigan told me on National Signing Day of his junior year that he was a lifelong Gator fan, and if he had to ink with someone right then, it would have been UF.
"Easily," he noted before saying he liked the idea of playing with 2010 Gator defensive line signees Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd and Ronald Powell.
Seven or eight months later, while not feeling as much love as he once did from UF (which offered him a scholarship when he was a high school freshman), Jernigan saw that schools like Alabama and Florida State were giving him a lot of attention.
Always wanting to look around but expecting to sign with Florida, Jernigan saw himself swayed by the Seminoles, who courted him harder than Urban Meyer did in his final year in Gainesville.
By the time Will Muschamp arrived on campus in December, UF had a lot of catching up to do in a short period of time, and they weren't able to reel Jernigan back in.
Stories like those happen all the time in recruiting, so I won't come down too hard on the Gators for that. Still, it can't be ignored.