Fairy-tale ending re­sult of off­sea­son prac­tice by Franks and Cleve­land

Orlando Sentinel - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Edgar Thomp­son

GAINESVILLE — Feleipe Franks and Tyrie Cleve­land prac­ticed the play dur­ing the off­sea­son and still do some days at the end of prac­tice.

The red­shirt fresh­man quar­ter­back would tell the sopho­more wide re­ceiver to run as fast as he can as far as he can and look up. The ball would be there.

On Satur­day, it was on the money when it mat­tered most.

Franks’ 63-yard bomb found Cleve­land in the end zone on the fi­nal play to stun the ri­val Ten­nessee Vol­un­teers 26-20.

The play is one ev­ery kid who has touched a foot­ball dreams about mak­ing. But this fairy-tale ending ac­tu­ally came true for Franks, Cleve­land and a UF team in need of a big win and a jolt of con­fi­dence — es­pe­cially on of­fense.

“It’s kind of hard to take it all in right now,” Franks said. “As a kid, you al­ways think of plays hap­pen­ing like that and then when it hap­pens it’s in­de­scrib­able.”

The play con­cluded one of the wildest fourth quar­ters for a se­ries dat­ing to 1916 and sent an an­nounced crowd of 87,736 in the Swamp into a frenzy as ev­ery­one on the Ga­tors’ side­line surged onto the field.

Se­nior re­ceiver Bran­don Pow­ell first found Cleve­land in the end zone, con­grat­u­lat­ing him with a hel­met slap that knocked out Cleve­land’s mouth­piece. Team­mates and coaches soon fol­lowed.

“It was crazy just mak­ing that play for the team and the coaches,” Cleve­land said. “I was just shocked it all hap­pened.”

Franks barely could re­call what had tran­spired.

“It’s kind of hard to re­mem­ber, I was so ex­cited through the whole thing,” he said.

Ev­ery­one in the Swamp sim­i­larly was stunned and likely strug­gling to sort it all out, too.

A three-quar­ter slough that ended with UF (1-1, 1-0 SEC) lead­ing 6-3 turned into a fourth-quar­ter shootout fea­tur­ing 37 points. A 27-yard field goal by se­nior kicker Aaron Med­ley tied the game at 20-20 with 50 sec­onds re­main­ing and set the stage for over­time in a se­ries known for its un­pre­dictable fin­ishes in re­cent sea­sons.

But with the Ga­tors fac­ing first-and-10 from their 37-yard line with nine sec­onds re­main­ing, Franks found him­self in the po­si­tion to take a game-win­ning shot down­field.

The 19-year-old from the Florida Pan­han­dle said he ini­tially was look­ing to get kicker Eddy Piñeiro into field-goal range. Franks said he then saw out of the cor­ner of his eye Cleve­land slip­ping be­hind the Vols’ de­fense.

Franks just trusted his in­stincts, Cleve­land’s sprinter’s speed and the work the two of them had put in.

“It was an in-the-mo­ment play,” Franks said.

The play also was right in Franks’ wheel­house. The 6-foot-5, 227-pounder is blessed with a can­non arm and en­joys us­ing it when­ever he can.

“For me, I love throw­ing the ball deep,” he said. “That’s fun, stretch the field a lit­tle bit — and def­i­nitely have the re­ceivers to do that.”

No one on the Ga­tors’ ros­ter is bet­ter at it than Cleve­land. Dur­ing last sea­son’s 16-10 up­set at LSU, his 98-yard touch­down was the big­gest play for UF’s of­fense and the Ga­tors’ long­est pass play since 1977.

Cleve­land said Satur­day’s catch, though, was much big­ger.

It cer­tainly was for a be­lea­guered of­fense and a head coach un­der in­creas­ing crit­i­cism for the sput­ter­ing at­tack he was hired to fix.

Pow­ell’s 5-yard touch­down catch with 5:13 re­main­ing gave the Ga­tors a 20-10 lead and also marked the team’s first score on of­fense since the third quar­ter of the Out­back Bowl on Jan. 2 — a span of more than eight quar­ters.

Much of the day, though, the Ga­tors’ play calls drew grum­bles from the crowd and pro­duced no points.

“It ob­vi­ously was not pretty,” UF coach Jim McEl­wain said. “But some­times in this busi­ness it’s about fig­ur­ing out a way to win.”

To pull off the big­gest play of his ca­reer, Franks had to over­come what could have been his big­gest mis­take.

With UF cling­ing to a 20-17 lead, Franks’ pass went through the hands tight end C’yon­tai Lewis and into the hands of the Vols’ Rashaan Gaulden.

“He was very calm,” McEl­wain said of Franks. “He didn’t get rat­tled.”

Ten­nessee (2-1, 0-1) faced first-and-goal on the Ga­tors’ 9 but had to set­tle for a field goal that tied the game at 20. It set the stage for a play a young quar­ter­back and re­ceiver could only dream about.

Once the ball was in the air, though, Cleve­land was sure the Ga­tors would win the game on the play.

“I knew I had it,” he said “I knew I would come down with it. I made it may busi­ness to come down with it.”


Tyrie Cleve­land’s Ga­tor team­mates pile on in cel­e­bra­tion of the re­ceiver’s last-play game-win­ning touch­down catch.

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