Rapid Reaction: Florida beats Tennessee on 63-yard TD on final play

Wow.

Florida didn’t do much offensively Saturday — until it mattered most.

After Tennessee kicked a game-tying field goal in the final minute, Feleipe Franks hit Tyrie Cleveland on a 63-yard touchdown on the final play, giving Florida a dramatic 26-20 victory at The Swamp.

The outcome was unexpected for several reasons, primarily because the fourth quarter represented a complete reversal from the first three quarters.

Florida scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, including its first two offensive touchdowns of the season. Tennessee scored 17.

Before the wild finish, the defenses dominated.

C.J. Henderson returned an interception 16 yards for the game’s first touchdown. It was the Gators’ third defensive touchdown of the season — and all three came via pick-sixes. Florida’s defense has scored five touchdowns in its past five games, just one shy of the offense.

Embattled Tennessee coach Butch Jones entered the game 5-15 against ranked opponents. Equally embattled Florida coach Jim McElwain was 2-8.

One seat grew hotter. The other remained simmering, thanks to a long touchdown.

The reason? Three quarters of offensive football. Not since 1953 had one of their games ended with both teams in single digits. After three quarters, it looked like that game might get company.

How inept were these offenses for much of Saturday? Tennessee had 1st-and-goal at Florida’s 1 midway through the third quarter and went backward before throwing an interception. Duke Dawson’s spectacular pick gave Florida possession at its 1 — and no doubt Gators fans were concerned that a safety might ensue. That the 3-play drive ended with a punt felt like a small victory.

Not that Tennessee could take advantage of the short field. Penalties and a sack pushed the Vols backward. The drive ended with Brent Cimaglia’s second consecutive missed field goal, this one from 51 yards. He made his first attempt, also from 51 yards, to tie the score at 3 in the second quarter. Aaron Medley, called upon in the fourth quarter, missed his attempt wide right.

No two numbers told the tale of Tennessee’s day better than these: three missed field goals and three interceptions.

Florida’s Eddy Pineiro made both of his, and until the defense took over and Franks hit Cleveland, that was enough.

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida’s second-best offensive play — Malik Davis’ 74-yard run originally ruled a touchdown — was overturned when review determined he fumbled it at the 1. The ball went through the end zone for a touchback.

This time, the Vols capitalized.

John Kelly, a bruising force most of the afternoon, finally put Tennessee in the end zone, breaking several tackles for a 34-yard touchdown to make it 13-10. That run pushed Kelly over 100 yards and nearly equaled the Quinten Dormady’s output to that point. Kelly finished 141. Dormady got hot late and finished with 259.

Tennessee allowed 535 rushing yards last week. There was zero suspense in how the Gators would attempt to seal it, but they were unsuccessful. Franks made some timely throws and, more important, no mistakes until late in the fourth quarter, when the Vols intercepted a tipped pass. His prettiest throw hit a diving Kadarius Toney in the end zone, but the ground jarred it loose.

For most of Saturday, it was that kind of day.

Then, suddenly and dramatically, it wasn’t.

Franks to Cleveland. One more for the record books.


Source: Saturday Down South

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