Finally, a little bit of good news for Florida.
And the usual bad run of luck for Rocky Top faithful.
After dealing for the last week with the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the Sunshine State needed something positive to lift their spirits.
Cue the Florida Gators. with a last-play, Hail Mary heave to come up victorious over the visiting Tennessee Volunteers 26-20 highlighting Week 3 of the NCAA football campaign.
“Just look at them,” Florida’s emotional head coach Jim McElwain told CBS watching his players celebrate with extreme jubilance post-game. “What they’ve gone through … This is about them.
“Just look at the fans here. Pretty cool deal.”
Pretty cool, indeed, as the last-second triumph whipped up a frenzied dogpile of players and a thunderous roar of hooting and hollering both on the field and in the stands of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
Just moments earlier, freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks fired a ball 66 yards right into the hands of receiver Tyrie Cleveland to give the improbable Gators victory. The home side went 75 yards on four plays in the final 50 seconds, capped by the 63-yard touchdown heave from the freshman QB to the streaking pass-catcher.
Franks calmly eluded pressure on the play before unloading the bomb on target, perhaps proving that he’s got the goods to be the pivot Florida fans have been waiting on since Tim Tebow took his game to the NFL.
“He showed me he can throw it a long way,” McElwain, with a chuckle, told CBS of Franks.
The Franks-to-Cleveland connection broke a 20-20 deadlock, made that way by Aaron Medley’s 27-yard field-goal for Tennessee in the final minute.
It also made it 13 straight wins for the No. 24 Gators (1-1) over the No. 23 Vols (2-1) in the heated ACC rivalry.
And it reminded Tennessee fans — once again — about just how terrible their fortune is in this series with Florida. Two years ago, Rocky Top lost 28-27 on a late 63-yard major by receiver Antonio Callaway, who was suspended for this one for a misuse of school funds while being under investigation for credit card fraud, from QB Will Grier, who’s now the starter for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
In this one, it was a 6-3 slugfest — typical of the ACC — through three quarters before opening up in the fourth frame and wrapping up on the final play that touched off the full-on Florida party.
“We knew we had to get this ‘W’ (to lift spirits in the state),” Cleveland told ESPN post-game. “I made it my business whatever happened throughout this game (that) I’m gonna keep playing.”
“We’ve got young guys,” McElwain told CBS. “It’s a fun group to be around. I’m just happy for them.”
SECOND & LONG
The heavyweight bout of Week 3 was played late in Muhammad Ali’s home-town between No. 3 Clemson (2-0), the defending national champ, and No. 14 Louisville (2-0), who is guided by Heisman Trophy-holder Lamar Jackson . . . No. 1 Alabama (2-0) hosted Colorado State (2-1) also met up in a late game . . . No. 4 USC (2-0) and Texas (1-1) matched up late as well . . . No. 2 Oklahoma (3-0) took a while to break away but tuned up Tulane (1-2) 56-14 thanks to a 17-of-27, 331-yard day from QB Baker Mayfield, who’s on a Heisman mission . . . First-half weirdness between No. 7 Michigan (3-0) and Air Force (1-1), as no TDs were scored and the military school attempted no passes and converted zero third-down attempts. In the end, Michigan piloted a fraught-filled flight to gut out a 29-13 triumph.
THIRD & GOAL
Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins rolled up 172 rushing yards in a 38-7 win by No. 8 Ohio State (2-1) over visiting Army (2-1) … No. 9 Oklahoma State (3-0) is for real after stoning Pittsburgh (1-2) 59-21 thanks to a whopping passing day from QB Mason Rudolph — how about 497 yards and five TDs, which included helping engineer four 100-yard efforts for receivers James Washington, Jalen McCleskey, Dillon Stoner and Marcell Ateman? The domination is especially impressive since Pitt gave No. 5 Penn State all it could handle last week on the road . . . No. 10 Wisconsin (3-0) destroyed host BYU (1-3), as Wiscy QB Alex Hornibrook was nearly perfect with his arm, going 18-of-19 for 256 yards and four scores … No. 16 Virginia Tech (3-0) scored 57 unanswered points in a 64-17 beatdown of East Carolina (0-3).
FOURTH & INCHES
QB Josh Rosen was both good and bad for No. 25 UCLA (2-1) in a road loss to Memphis (2-0), as ‘The Rosen One,’ a Heisman hopeful and NFL protege, threw a handful of ill-advised passes — including one for a pick-six — despite tossing 463 yards in a 48-45 drop. The Memphis stars were receiver Anthony Miller, who hauled in nine balls for 186 yards and two TDs, and QB Riley Ferguson, who chucked for 398 yards and six TDs . . . Nebraska QB Tanner Lee tossed two pick-sixes in the first quarter and another late in the game in a Northern Illinois (2-1) upset, 21-17 in Lincoln, Neb. Third-year head coach Mike Riley, the former CFL sideline boss, just signed an extension to lead Nebraska (1-2) through 2020, but school athletic director Shawn Eichorst told ESPN the loss is “not acceptable.” . . . It’s 42 consecutive road losses and counting for Kansas (1-2) after host Ohio (2-1) scored a 42-30 victory … And Notre Dame (2-1) got 229 rushing yards from Josh Adams to run away from host Boston College (1-2) in the second half of a 49-20 affair. The five-TD explosion in the second half might help save head coach Brian Kelly’s job in South Bend, Ind.