Florida Gators Win Last-Second Thriller In The Swamp, Defeat No. 23 Tennessee On 63-Yard Hail Mary

By  //  September 16, 2017

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Florida 26, Tennessee 20 Final

ABOVE VIDEO: 63-yard Hail Mary from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland on the game’s final play.

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (Florida Gators) – On a warm and muggy afternoon at The Swamp, the Gators and Tennessee staggered though the humidity much of their Southeastern Conference opener on Saturday.

And then the fourth quarter happened. The teams combined for five touchdowns and a field goal in the final 15 minutes after only three field goals (two for UF, one for UT) over the first 45 minutes

The only one that mattered in the end was the last score — a 63-yard Hail Mary from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland on the game’s final play.

Gators win.

“That was a lot of fun,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said. “Our guys figured out a way to win.”

Here is more in our Quick Slant:

WHAT IT MEANS: The Gators needed something good to happen Saturday and they got it, not only avoiding their first 0-2 start in 46 years, but with one 70-yards-in-the-air throw by Franks, but a dose of hope for the future. Florida was a frustrated team after losing to Michigan in the season opener and then having to wait two weeks to play again due to Hurricane Irma. The wait proved worth it as they dogpiled in the end zone and the crowd in the Swamp roared.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Making his first career start at home, Franks finished 18 of 28 for 212 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Franks took a while to get comfortable, but he made some good throws in key moments, none more than the Hail Mary pass that hit Cleveland in stride about three yards into the end zone.

STAGGERING STATISTIC: The Gators won their 28th consecutive home opener and first over an SEC opponent since defeating Kentucky in 1992.

SUBPLOT: The Gators had gone eight consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown, a streak that appeared to end when freshman running back Malik Davis rolled 74 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter. However, officials reviewed the play and ruled Davis was stripped from behind at the 2-yard line and fumbled the ball out of the back of the end zone. Instead, they had to wait until later in the quarter when Franks connected with Brandon Powell for his first career touchdown throw to put UF ahead 20-10.

UP NEXT: The Gators travel to Kentucky for their first SEC road game of the season. You can’t discuss this matchup without mentioning what has defined it for 30 years: Florida’s dominance. The Gators will look to extend their winning to 31 in a row over the Wildcats. The last time Florida lost to the Wildcats was 1986 in Lexington.