Ga­tors stun Vols with a Hail Mary

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports -

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Tyrie Cleve­land was one of the last play­ers to leave Florida Field. He slapped hands, posed for pic­tures, and just be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing into the locker room tun­nel, he turned and waved one fi­nal time.

He eas­ily could have taken a bow.

Cleve­land hauled in a 63-yard touch­down pass from Feleipe Franks as time ex­pired, and No. 24 Florida stunned 23rd-ranked Ten­nessee 26-20 in a wild, wacky and some­times un­watch­able ri­valry game Satur­day.

Franks scram­bled away from the rush on a first-and-10 play with 9 sec­onds re­main­ing and found Cleve­land be­hind safety Micah Aber­nathy for a Hail Mary that no one — es­pe­cially the Vol­un­teers — saw com­ing.

"Grow­ing up, I al­ways dreamed of mak­ing that game-win­ning touch­down," Cleve­land said. "To make it come true is un­de­scrib­able."

The fi­nal play capped a crazy fourth quar­ter in which the teams com­bined for 37 points and lit­tle, if any, de­fense.

"It was a re­ally fun way to end a game," Franks said. "You grow up wait­ing for mo­ments like that to hap­pen in your life, and when it does hap­pen, you don't have any words to de­scribe it."

Here's one: Un­pre­dictable.

Af­ter watch­ing Florida's of­fense sput­ter all af­ter­noon, there surely were arm-chair quar­ter­backs ev­ery­where think­ing the Ga­tors (1-1, 1-0 South­east­ern Con­fer­ence) should take a knee and head to over­time. In­stead, they burned the Vol­un­teers (2-1, 0-1) with a deep pass for the se­cond time in as many vis­its to Gainesville.

Two years ago, Will Grier found An­to­nio Call­away for a 63-yard touch­down on a fourt­hand-12 play with 1:26 re­main­ing that pro­pelled Florida to a 28-27 vic­tory.

This time, the play called "Train Right Open, Big Ben In" will go down in Florida lore as one of the most mem­o­rable in school his­tory.

It gave the Ga­tors a 12th win in the last 13 years against Ten­nessee and al­lowed them to avoid the pro­gram's first 0-2 start since 1971.

"We've just got to stay as deep as the deep­est (re­ceiver)," Vols coach Butch Jones said. "That's one of those plays that comes around ev­ery so of­ten, and un­for­tu­nately they made the play and we didn't."

Jones surely will face more crit­i­cism for his team's ques­tion­able play-call­ing . Ten­nessee failed to get stand­out run­ning back John Kelly the ball on a first-and-goal play from the 1-yard line in the third quar­ter and again on three first-and-goal tries from the 9 in the fourth.

Ten­nessee also can blame three missed field goals for not be­ing ahead late. The Ga­tors looked as if they had the game in hand early in the fi­nal frame, but found a way to let the Vol­un­teers get back in it.

Franks made one huge mis­take: An in­ter­cep­tion in Florida ter­ri­tory that set up Ten­nessee's ty­ing field goal. The Vols failed to find the end zone and set­tled for three points with 50 sec­onds left.

Over­time looked to be on tap — and then Franks found Cleve­land.

Fel­low re­ceiver Bran­don Pow­ell was the first to con­grat­u­late Cleve­land in the end zone. Pow­ell slapped him so hard up­side the hel­met that it knocked his mouth­piece out. Team­mates and coaches piled on a few sec­onds later. It was a sur­real scene, es­pe­cially for a team that didn't score an of­fen­sive touch­down in the first seven quar­ters of the sea­son.

The party con­tin­ued in­side the locker room.

"It was noth­ing to do with me," coach Jim McEl­wain said. "Some­times things like that are re­ally spe­cial. I've got some burned images in my mind that I will carry for the rest of my life."

There was lit­tle to re­mem­ber from the first three quar­ters. The de­fenses were stout, but there were plenty of of­fen­sive blun­ders and head-scratch­ing play calls.

Florida led 6-3 to open the fourth and looked as if it iced the game when C.J. Hen­der­son re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion 16 yards for a score. Fresh­man Ma­lik Davis fol­lowed a se­ries later with a 74-yard run. But the touch­down was over­turned on re­view af­ter of­fi­cials re­al­ized Davis fum­bled at the 2. Justin Martin caught Davis from be­hind and knocked the ball loose. It bounced through the end zone for a touch­back.

The Vols scored five plays later, cut­ting it to 13-10 on Kelly's 24-yard run. But Kelly also made a huge mis­take. He was flagged for un­sports­man­like con­duct for do­ing the "Ga­tor Chomp" in the end zone, and the penalty helped the Ga­tors get the ball in Ten­nessee ter­ri­tory.

Franks found Bran­don Pow­ell in the flat for a 5-yard score, cap­ping a 44-yard drive that gave Florida a dou­ble-digit lead.

Still, Ten­nessee kept com­ing back and fig­ured it would end up in over­time for the se­cond time in three games. Franks and Cleve­land didn't let it hap­pen.

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