GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tennessee fell to rival Florida in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon, losing 26-20 on a Hail Mary pass on the final play in regulation.
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks connected with Tyrie Cleveland on a 63-yard touchdown pass as time expired, denying the Vols in their comeback bid.
Tennessee rallied from 20-10 down with under five minutes left, tying the game at 20-20 on Aaron Medley’s 27-yard field goal with 50 seconds left.
Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady, making his first road start, struggled throughout a 21-of-39 passing performance that netted 259 yards and a touchdown but also, three costly interceptions.
Vols tailback John Kelly was a bright spot, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, Kelly also led Tennessee with six receptions, gaining 96 yards as a receiver.
Florida appeared to have the game in control with 14:23 left when a ball thrown high by Dormady that went off Marquez Callaway’s hands was intercepted by freshman C.J. Henderson at the 16 and brought into the end zone for a 13-3 lead with 14:23 left to play.
• Kelly ran angry, downright inspirational in the fourth quarter, with an impressive 34-yard TD run, 29-yard catch-and-run and and 52-yard catch-and-run. Kelly also had another 38-yard run that gave Vols a chance for a FG at the end of the first half.
• Callaway had himself another good day, coming up with a big 22-yard catch on third-and-19 in the Red Zone, and a 29-yard punt return that flipped the field. Callaway finished with three catches for 46 yards.
• Tennessee’s defense had held Florida’s offense without a touchdown until 5:13 left in the game, and that came after a taunting penalty set up a kick return to Vols’ 44-yard line. The Hail Mary play saw Micah Abernathy get beat deep, but only after Florida’s QB scrambled to buy added time.
• Vols nickleback Rashaan Gaulden had a great interception off a tipped pass at the Florida 40-yard line that helped Tennessee come back and tie the game, in addition to making a team-high nine tackles.
• Tennessee play calling was atrocious in the third quarter. The Vols drove inside the Florida 20 twice and came away with no points. The first time, Dormady was intercepted at the 1 after WR Josh Palmer broke outside instead of inside. The second time UT reached the 17-yard line, but a holding penalty and sacked backed the ball up and resulted in a missed 51-yard field goal
• Dormady’s first road start was pretty challenging. The Vols learned his mobility isn’t what it will need to be against SEC defenses if they are counting on rushing yardage. Dormady threw three interceptions, unable to overcome Florida’s defensive pressure and the youth at receiver.
• Tennessee kicking game. Tennessee was 1-of-4 on field goals, with freshman Brent Cimagliaa missing from 47 and 51 yards, and senior Aaron Medley missing a 44-yarder in the fourth quarter. Medley did redeem himself with a 27-yard field goal with under a minute left that tied the game at 20-20.