Florida stunned Tennessee with a 63-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks to Ty Cleveland on the game’s final play for a 26-20 victory on Saturday.
The game between the two SEC East rivals was ugly at times, but a nail-biter until the end after the Vols tied the score with a field goal with 50 seconds left in the game.
Florida-Tennessee live updates, score
Final play — Franks to Ty Cleveland for 63 yards in The Swamp on the final play of the game.
Florida / Tennessee went full BANANAS pic.twitter.com/Z0PTfeoRXt
— DieHards (@DieHards) September 16, 2017
0:50, 4Q — Aaron Medley’s 27-yard field goal makes it 20-20. Florida will get the ball last in regulation.
4Q update — The Vols just picked off a pass and have the ball deep in Florida territory.
4:43, 4Q — Florida 20, Tennessee 17
The Vols strike back quickly. Dormady hits Ethan Wolf for a 28-yard score to cap a 2-play drive that included a 52-yard pass to John Kelly. Stay tuned.
5:13, 4Q — Florida 20, Tennessee 10
Tennessee finally managed to find the end zone (on a 34-yard John Kelly touchdown run) and then the Gators did the same. Really, the offense scored. Feleipe Franks connected with Brandon Powell for a 5-yard touchdown pass for Florida’s first offensive touchdown since its bowl game in January.
The Gators just need to close this out now, but looks like they are going to get the win they so badly needed.
Questions about the offense will remain, but credit the defense for carrying the load through three and a half quarters.
10:45, 4Q — Florida 13, Tennessee 3
What a tough break for freshman running back Malik Davis. He looked to have a 73-yard touchdown run that would have given the offense something to feel good about today, but he lost the ball before crossing the goal line and it went for a fumble and touchback instead.
Brutal. Just brutal.
14:23, 4Q — Florida 13, Tennessee 3
Not much to say here, but C.J. Henderson. Wow. Two pick-6s in two games for the freshman cornerback.
Florida defense again outscoring offense (if counting the extra point there).
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 16, 2017
3:13, 3Q — Florida 6, Tennessee 3
The build off the previous point, this Florida Gators defense is looking vintage.
For the second straight series, Tennessee started in Florida territory, setting up at the Gators’ 36 after a 29-yard punt return. The Vols got as close as the 17 when the defense refused to bend any further.
QB Quinten Dormady threw incomplete on third-and-2, but Florida defensive end Jordan Sherit was held on the play and the Gators decided to take the penalty and try to push a Vols’ potential FG try back a little further. On third-and-12 from the 27, Jabari Zuniga and Kyree Campbell smashed Dormady for a loss of 6 yards and Tennessee missed a 51-yard field goal.
The Gators defense is being asked to carry the load this game (which should be familiar), and they are answering big time.
7:21, 3Q — Florida 6, Tennessee 3
Many of the names have changed, but Florida’s defense is playing up to its usual lofty standard. Gripe about the offense, be frustrated by the lack of yards and points, but my takeaway from today is going to be the clutch play of this Gators defense.
A fumble by Florida running back Lamical Perine after a 21-yard gain gave the Vols possession just inside midfield. They got all the way down to a first-and-goal at the 1. Duke Dawson nearly intercepted a pass in the end zone and was visibly frustrated when it fell through his hands. Chauncey Gardner drew a taunting penalty with his reaction and the Vols reset on first down from the goal line. But the Gators didn’t bend.
Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady threw incomplete on first down, Florida defensive end Jachai Polite forced him to toss a quick screen pass that went nowhere on second down and then he threw it right to Dawson on what was either a bad pass or a miscommunication with his receiver.
Either way, another clutch defensive stand for the Gators, who are carrying the load today.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) September 16, 2017
Halftime — Florida 6, Tennessee 3
Tennessee got a 38-yard run from John Kelly to get into Florida territory and threaten for a game-tying field goal at the end of the half, but Brent Cimaglia missed from 47 yards.
The bigger news on that final series of the first half was Gators safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. being tended to on the field and then walking off with a slight limp. Gardner is one three defensive players along with linebacker David Reese and veteran cornerback Duke Dawson that this defense absolutely cannot afford to lose. That he walked off the field on his own is encouraging, but he was shaking his head in frustration. And remember, Gardner was in a protective walking boot and on crutches after the opener against Michigan with an unspecified ankle/foot injury. He said earlier this week he was 100 percent, but he was clearly in pain after that play.
Interestingly, Florida went to sophomore Jeawon Taylor at safety with Gardner out rather than freshman Shawn Davis, who finished the preseason ahead of Taylor on the depth chart. Davis was beaten on a deep touchdown by Michigan a play after senior safety Nick Washington went to the sideline in that first game, and that could be the reason Taylor got the call this time.
Either way, the Gators are thin throughout the secondary and Gardner is their most versatile option back there. They’ll have to hope he’s OK to return.
As for first-half stats, Florida finished with a slight yardage advantage (141-134) over Tennessee.
Redshirt freshman QB Feleipe Franks is 11-for-18 for 106 yards. He’s mostly looked sharp, though he forced a throw to Dre Massey in double coverage that could have been picked off.
Florida has just 35 rushing yards, led by 21 from Lamical Perine.
The best offensive player in the first half was freshman slot weapon Kadarius Toney, who had 2 catches for 27 yards while creating significant yards after the catch on both targets. He also lined up at quarterback and rushed for a 5-yard gain.
Wish I could find a better video than this, but that’s still a pretty move in any format.
— Grindhard💸💪🏈 (@251_3069) September 16, 2017
2:58 2Q — Florida 6, Tennessee 3
I’m really impressed with the Gators’ defense so far. After having a nice third-down stop negated by an offsides penalty on defensive end Jabari Zuniga, they nearly stuffed Tennessee on third-and-1. Running back John Kelly managed to barely get the first down, but the Vols went no further.
Freshman cornerback Marco Wilson had nice coverage on a pass down the left sideline on second down and defensive lineman Luke Ancrum deflected Quinten Dormady’s pass on third down. The Vols had to settle for a 51-yard Brent Cimaglia field goal for their first points.
One other observation of note. When the Gators have gone to a nickel look, it’s been senior Duke Dawson moving into the slot as Florida is leaving freshmen corners Wilson and C.J. Henderson on the outside. That’s a change from last week when Wilson would move inside to the nickel in those situations. Of course, Dawson played nickel last year for the Gators. When Florida is in a three-linebacker set, though, Dawson has been one of the two outside corners.
8:11 2Q — Florida 6, Tennessee 0
Well, give offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier at least some credit for getting the ball to the “get-it-to list.” Freshman slot weapon Kadarius Toney was finally involved in the offense, turning a quick sideline pass into a 19-yard gain as he shook two defenders with his speed and instincts. He then lined up at quarterback on the next play, faked a handoff and rushed up the gut for 5 yards. Those are the kind of plays that Florida can get when it involves its most athletic playmakers.
Unfortunately, even positive steps forward for this offense come with a step back. Just as their first drive was derailed by two costly penalties, the Gators were stunted this time when Tennessee linebacker Dillon Bates blew past the right tackle and running back Lamical Perine for a 15-yard sack of Feleipe Franks.
The end result, a 41-yard field goal for Eddy Pineiro, who is going to be a busy man this fall.
2:35 1Q — Florida 3, Tennessee 0
It’s been well stated that Florida needs sophomore David Reese to not only fill Jarrad Davis void at middle linebacker, but also help replace his leadership and tone-setting big plays. There was one right there as Reese intercepted Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady on a bad pass thrown behind the running back. That ended a promising Vols drive as Gators took over at their own 34.
The offense didn’t do anything with its second possession, but always a good sign to see the defense putting its stamp on a game early.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) September 16, 2017
7:39 1Q — Florida 3, Tennessee 0
All in all, a very encouraging opening possession for Florida, but coach Jim McElwain has to be frustrated by the back-to-back delay of game and false start penalties once the Gators got into the red zone. That ultimately stalled the drive after 15 plays for 65 yards and forced them to settle for a 27-yard Eddy Pineiro field goal.
But here were the good signs. Florida let quarterback Feleipe Franks take a deep shot downfield on the second play. It was incomplete as wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland begged for a pass interference call, but it was good aggressive play calling. Franks was 5-of-8 for 54 yards on the drive overall, including a 22-yard screen pass to Brandon Powell (with a devastating block from right tackle Jawaan Taylor to spring him loose).
Another good sign, freshman running back Malik Davis got a carry on the first drive. Fans were frustrated two weeks ago when Davis rushed for 8 yards on his only carry vs. Michigan and then didn’t touch the ball again. Hopefully he stays involved this time.
Florida-Tennessee game time, information
When: Saturday, September 16
Where: Ben Hill Griffith Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
- The game Saturday marks the second straight season but only the third time since 2007 that both teams have been ranked in the Top 25 at the time of their meeting.
- Florida holds a 26-20 advantage in the all-time series, including a 13-5 edge in games played against Tennessee in Gainesville.
- The Gators have won their last 27 home-opening games and have not started a season 0-2 since 1971.
- The Vols scored straight 38 points against Florida in the most recent game between the teams, erasing a 21-3 halftime deficit for a 38-28 victory over the Gators.
- Vols tailback John Kelly is the only player in the SEC who leads his team in rushing (208 yards) and receptions (10) this season.
- Florida is playing its second straight game without nine suspended players, including RB Jordan Scarlett and WR Antonio Callaway.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks is expected to make the second start of his career.
Florida-Tennessee is one of the few marquee conference games across the country that’s annually played in September. The SEC office insists on a scheduling model from 1993 that has allowed the Big Ten to outmaneuver the SEC in the national polls, saving its divisional showdown games for late in the season. So the Vols and Gators will battle it out with the loser falling out of the top 25, and the winner remaining in control of their divisional destiny.
Ryan Young’s pick: Florida 27, Tennessee 21
“Sure, Florida delivered a total dud in its season opener against Michigan. And sure, Tennessee is off to a 2-0 start and has all the momentum heading into the teams’ SEC opener Saturday in The Swamp. But I still think the Gators win this one. Tennessee still has plenty to prove as well, with new quarterback Quinten Dormady and a defense that allowed 655 yards — including 535 yards rushing — to Georgia Tech in Week 1. The Gators have even more to prove, but I think the offense finds some rhythm Saturday in the comforts of The Swamp.”
Zach Abolverdi’s pick: Tennessee 24, Florida 17
“We will find out so much about both teams Saturday. Tennessee comes into this game riding some early-season momentum after a gut-wrenching win over Georgia Tech and a solid showing last weekend against Indiana State. Florida, on the other hand, has had a disastrous start to its 2017 season. Had the Gators looked good against Michigan — win or lose — and then followed that up with a Northern Colorado drubbing, I’d feel better about them heading into this game. But as it stands now, Tennessee has the juice and Florida is trying to find it.”
Jordan McPherson’s pick: Florida 20, Tennessee 13
“The Volunteers are in the midst of a rebuilding year. The offense is essentially brand new and the defense is without its best player. If Florida can establish the run game early and the offensive line is serviceable, it should take enough pressure off of Feleipe Franks for him to make an impact with his arm. The defense needs to tackle, stop the run game and make a couple big plays at big times.”