Before the Sugar Bowl began Monday night at the Superdome, the scoreboard read Florida 31, Florida State 31, a reminder that this was a rematch of the stalemate they had submitted to Nov. 26.
The Gators that day were chomping the Seminoles 31-3 before being seized with lockjaw and collapsing in the fourth quarter. So as the teams entered the equivalent of overtime Monday, which one would enjoy momentum was a matter of conjecture. Or, as Florida State coach Bobby Bowden put it, "Who's going to show up doing what?"
Answer: Both sides - and nothing but mumbo-jumbo, hocus-pocus and razzmatazz. In a game festooned with jaw-jacking, exotic formations and eccentric play-calling, Florida State defeated Florida.
The score was 23-17.
Seventh-ranked Florida State, the 1993 national champion, finished its unsuccessful title defense 10-1-1. Florida, ranked fifth, is 10-2-1, leaving coach Steve Spurrier 1-6-1 against the Bowden family - 1-4-1 against Bobby Bowden, and 0-2 against son Terry at Auburn.
The high jinks began almost as soon as Johnny Rivers finished singing the national anthem.
Before the end of the first half, each team had broken 60-year-old Sugar Bowl records for longest pass in a game. And each apparently had peeled open a touch-football playbook: Florida ran a receiver reverse pass, tried to execute the hook-and-ladder and twice used a formation that featured just five players in the middle of the field.
Relatively conservative Florida State featured a center snap to the tailback - and the ol' overhand-lateral-to-the-tailback-who-throws-a-bomb-off-the-receiver' s-hands-ca roming-off-the-safety's-helmet-back-to-the-receiver-in-full-stride-f or-a-touch down.
That play, ultimately for 73 yards from Warrick Dunn to receiver 'OMar Ellison and off safety Michael Gilmore, came with 14 minutes 25 seconds left in the second quarter, after the teams had exchanged first-quarter field goals. It also was one play after Fred Taylor became the first Gators tailback to lose a fumble this season.
The touchdown broke the game's pass record of 68 yards, set in 1962.
After holding Florida on downs inside the Seminoles' 30, the Seminoles went up 17-3 on a 16-yard pass from Kanell to Kez McCorvey with 7:47 to play in the half. …