Michigan St. 37, Florida 34

ORLANDO, Fla. — The critics say a playoff system is the only way to bring meaning to the college postseason. They should have seen the Citrus Bowl, and the way No. 9 Michigan State celebrated its wild victory over No. 10 Florida.

Paul Edinger kicked a 39-yard field goal as time expired Saturday to cap the Spartans' most successful season in decades with a 37-34 victory.

The kick sailed through and the Spartans (10-2) charged off the sideline, jumped up and down on the field, soaked in their band's fight song and celebrated like national champs.

The victory in coach Bobby Williams' debut gave Michigan State its first 10-win season since 1965. Williams joined George Perles as just the second coach to win in his first game at Michigan State.

Plaxico Burress set a school record with 13 receptions, including three for touchdowns, as the Spartans got the Williams era off to a good start after the stunning departure of Nick Saban last month.

"We just hope this tradition will go on," senior linebacker Julian Peterson said. "We just hope coach Williams goes out and wins a national championship next season."

That used to be a realistic goal for Florida (9-4).

The Gators closed the season on their first three-game losing streak since 1988, two years before Steve Spurrier arrived as coach. They'll finish without 10 victories for the first time since 1992 and likely out of the top 10 for the first time since 1990.

"I don't really have a comment about it," Spurrier said. "We've lost three in a row, we're not going to be in the top 10, and we're not going to win 10 games. They made a play or two more in the fourth quarter to win it. I guess that's the way life is for us in 1999."

Making the loss even more difficult was the fact that Burress and Edinger had Florida high on their list when they went to college.

Burress couldn't go there because of academics.

Edinger didn't go because he knew the Gators didn't put a premium on field goals. He kicked the most important one of his career just minutes after missing a 45-yarder that would have given the Spartans the lead.

"I was warming up on the sideline, I wasn't paying any attention," Edinger said. "Then, there were three seconds left and coach said, 'Go win one for us.' "

He did, and Williams, drenched after a Gatorade bath, said he was as shocked as anyone in the stadium.

"I told our coaches we better get ready for overtime," he said.

"The next thing I know, the clock said zero-zero and I was getting clunked with the bucket."