Florida de­feats Ten­nessee with pass on the fi­nal play

Starkville Daily News - - SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL - By MARK LONG Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Feleipe Franks heaved a 63-yard touch­down pass to Tyrie Cleve­land as the clock ex­pired, and No. 24 Florida beat 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.

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

"Oh my gosh, it's in­de­scrib­able," 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. Ten­nessee (2-1, 0-1 South­east­ern Con­fer­ence) can blame three missed field goals for not be­ing ahead late. The Ga­tors (11, 1-0) 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 had one huge mis­take — an in­ter­cep­tion in Florida ter­ri­tory that set up Ten­nessee's ty­ing field goal. The Vols had three plays from the 9, but failed to get in the end zone and set­tled for three points with 50 sec­onds left.

It looked for sure as if it was headed for over­time — and then Franks found Cleve­land.

"It's crazy, it's crazy," Cleve­land said. "I think this is about the fastest I ever ran."

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. Their team­mates and coaches — all of them — 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.

Cleve­land was one of the last play­ers on the field. As he walked into the tun­nel and to­ward the locker room, he turned and waved a fi­nal time to cheer­ing fans.

He could have taken a bow.

"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 with me the rest of my life."

There was lit­tle to re­mem­ber from the first three quar­ters. The de­fenses were mostly stout, but there were plenty of of­fen­sive mis­takes and count­less ques­tion­able play calls. Ten­nessee coaches, play­ers and fans surely won't for­get hav­ing the ball first-and-goal at the 1 and nearly throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion on first down and then get­ting flagged for a false start on se­cond. The drive ended with an in­ter­cep­tion.

Florida led 6-3 to open the fourth and looked as if it iced the pro­gram's 12th win in 13 years against Ten­nessee 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 John 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. It just never hap­pened.

(Photo by John Raoux, AP)

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