Tennessee’s Aaron Medley watched as his 55-yard field goal attempt fell short and wide right, The Swamp erupted, knowing the Florida football team had extended its winning streak to 11 games over the Volunteers. But, through the roars of the crowd, the high shrill of the referee’s whistle could be heard; Florida coach Jim McElwain had called timeout prior to this kick. Medley had another chance.
This time Medley got all of the pigskin as it sailed to towards the North end zone. The ball bobbed and weaved as it headed towards the right upright before sneaking just to the outside. No good. The celebration was officially on as the Gators somehow stole a victory from the jaws of defeat beating the Tennessee Volunteers 28-27, an end result that seemed all but impossible just four minutes earlier.
The key match up coming in to the game was the Florida Gators rush defense, allowing a league best 55 yards per game, versus the Tennessee Volunteers rushing offense, averaging over 245 yards per game good for third best in the SEC. Add in the fact that the team who had rushed for the most yards in this match up had won the previous 11, and the line of scrimmage battle was one to watch closely.
The Gators led the rushing battle for all of one quarter. Running back Kelvin Taylor busted a 47-yard gain during the first quarter on his way to 64 yards rushing, while the Volunteers had a tough time getting anything going against a fired up Florida defense. As the first half wore on though, Tennessee started to assert its will and by halftime the Vols led the Gators 172 to 82 in the rushing department. By the time the clock hit zero at the end of the game, Tennessee had racked up 254 yards to Florida’s 109. Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs led the team in rushing with 136 yards on 18 carries and, according to McElwain, provided a major challenge to the Gator defense.
“That guy is a warrior, he’s fun to watch,”McElwain stated. “He made a ton of plays for them.”
Tennessee increased its lead to 27-14 on a Jalen Hurd 10 yard touchdown run with just over 10 minutes remaining the game, and it seemed all but certain that the Volunteers would finally break the losing streak. The Florida offense had not done much in the second half and quarterback Will Grier had completed only three of his last 10 passes when the Gators took the field. Promptly, the offense marched down the field on a 17-play, 86 yard drive punctuated by a five-yard touchdown pass from Grier to wide receiver Brandon Powell with just over four minutes to play.
Florida had one timeout and they had to force Tennessee’s offense in to a three-and-out, and they did. Grier and the offense took the field with 2:18 on the clock and one timeout, needing to go 59 yards. The first three plays saw the Gators move back four yards before Grier found freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway on 4th and 14 who took it the distance to give the Gators the lead for good. McElwain believes Callaway will be a special player in the Orange and Blue.
“I like him a whole bunch and I’m sure glad he’s a Gator,” McElwain exclaimed. “We knew there was something special in this kid when we started recruiting him and I think he’s proving that and has still, I don’t think, really has scratched the surface, he’s still learning how to play.”
Where the Florida offense, and Will Grier, really excelled in the game was fourth down conversions. Grier went five-for-five for 123 yards and a touchdown on fourth downs. On the season, the Gators have converted all 10 fourth down attempts, something McElwain just feels lucky to have worked out in his favor.
“Glad we’re not in Canada because we don’t get four downs in Canada,” McElwain joked. “I know I went for it a bunch and we came up a winner.”
Now the Gator attention turns to an unbeaten Ole Miss Rebel team that will travel to The Swamp next Saturday night. McElwain expects the home field advantage to show up once again and looks forward to the match up.
“The Swamp should be rocking again,” McElwain said. “I mean let’s face it, we got a top team in the country coming in here…that’s a lot of fun and, I guess, you look forward to that kind of thing. ”
Kickoff between the Gators and the Rebels is set for 7:00. Tennessee will head back to Knoxville to take on Arkansas.