Florida’s 26-20 win over Tennessee was a wild gem, the kind rivalry games sometimes give us. It started out being positively gross until a bonkers fourth quarter.
I have the dubious distinction of being one of the near 100,000 people in attendance at Florida’s 10-9 win over Tennessee in 2014. This didn’t end up that ugly, but damnit if the 2017 version didn’t try its hardest to give us an offensive-less rock fight for about 45 of 60 minutes.
Let us relive what was in all its ugly glory, before things got actually interesting.
1. Florida’s offense.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Florida’s on this list. This Florida’s offense hasn’t been good since Tim Tebow left in 2009. It is a truism of the human experience. Coming into this game, Florida’s offense hadn’t scored since the third quarter of its bowl game.
Ineptness is one thing, but in the third quarter things bordered on cursed when running back Malik Davis came this close to scoring.
The Gators would end up breaking through in the fourth quarter with a Brandon Powell score. It was Florida’s eighth offensive TD in its last eight games.
2. Tennessee’s red zone offense.
Look upon this and despair, please.
There’s a subsection here as well, and it’s Tennessee’s three missed field goals. The Vols needed breathing room in this game, and they couldn’t get it.
3. The refs spoiling all the dadgum fun.
This incredibly savage Gator chomp became a penalty because referees don’t like fun.
But the penalty led us to our next weird and ugly thing, and herein we find the line to Florida’s epic ending.
4. Tennessee’s two rough kickoffs.
The penalty-aided one was pretty understandable, but it did set up Florida in great field position to get that dubious first touchdown.
The second kickoff in question went out of bounds for the Vols, but (pointing back to No. 1 on this list) Florida threw an interception and couldn’t benefit.
But Tennessee’s offense stalled in striking distance as well, and could only muster a field goal to tie the game at 20. It gave Florida the ball back with more than one option to win the game.
5. Florida’s unbelievably bad clock management.
Coming down the stretch, Florida let about 20 seconds run off the clock because it thought it had a first down. Because of it, Florida really only had enough time to run one deep bomb or a short play to get in field goal range for the win.
The Gators went for the bomb.
6. Then Tennessee’s poor cover-2 defense.
Game, set, match.
Perplexingly, this game got really fun in the end. It’s the kind of fun where you’re laughing in spite of the losing team absolutely collapsing. It is the variance involved in a game featuring 18-22 year olds. It’s what makes college football fun.