25 Best Moments in The Swamp: No. 3 — The Heave to Cleve

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Florida sophomore receiver Tyrie Cleveland catches a 63-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Feleipe Franks in the end zone on the game's last play Saturday to beat Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

No. 3 — Sept. 16, 2017

The Heave to Cleve

The set-up: Both teams were floundering around the lower part of the top 25 and Florida was dealing with a missed game because of Hurricane Irma. The game itself was a snoozer for three quarters (6-3 Florida) before all heck broke loose in the final half, including Malik Davis fumbling away a touchdown at the goal line and Tennessee’s John Kelly dropping a possible game-winning TD pass. It was 20-20 with less than a minute to go when Florida got the ball.

The moment: Florida managed to get a first down on a running play — drawing boos from the Gator faithful — and had time for one play from its 37. Feleipe Franks dropped back and felt pressure so he rolled to the right and planted before firing a perfect strike to the end zone. Somehow, Tyrie Cleveland was behind the defense and cradled the ball like a newborn baby in the end zone where he was mobbed by his teammates. The final was 26-20.

The result: Florida won the next two games over Kentucky and Vandy, but things didn’t go too well for Florida after that as it finished 4-7. Jim McElwain was fired after the Georgia game and Randy Shannon took over, as Florida began its search for a new coach. But they’d always have the Heave to Cleve.

The quote: “I remember thinking that Florida has finally found its quarterback and Jim McElwain finally has an offense. That may have been a little premature. Those kinds of things don’t ever seem to happen to Florida. It was historic. It was euphoric.

“But it wasn’t a Hail Mary. It was a perfect post pattern. And it might have been the most perfect throw a quarterback ever made.” — Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel.

Reader comments: Myron Hassell picked this play as his No. 1 — “I’ve only been once, but I’ll be there again for the Florida vs TN this year.”

Editor’s note: You have one Swamp game moment that comes to mind? Tell us what it is. Maybe it’s already on our Top 25 list. We’ll update readers on top moments from fans as the countdown proceeds.

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. I would have pegged this as the best play in Swamp history right after it happened, but because that season was such a disaster, I agree with dropping it down a couple spots.

    Right now I’m guessing that number 2 will be a play from the final drive of the 1997 FSU game (probably the Johnson to Green pass) and number one will be the blocked kick against USC in 2006.

  2. I’d been to two SEC Championship games with MAC as coach as well as numerous home games. There were moments flashes of potential but the whole package wasn’t capable. This play was a flash at the talent that was there not being implemented and trained correctly. TC made a great catch against a foe and FF showed he had the arm to make the passes but not yet the mind to carry a team. Last year he started to show he could carry a little more of the team.

  3. I was in the South End Zone for this play. Single most memorable moment in The Swamp, well maybe second but I cannot talk about #1 in public. It was awesome looking down on this play. Pandemonium overtook my section. The UT fans sitting in front of us were so dejected. It was great.

    • C’mon David — inquiring, or at least dirty, minds want to know! What WAS the #1 memorable moment in the Swamp? You can share it with us, we won’t tell anybody. 🙄

      But 65, that was truly a time when they had no business winning but win they did. Unfortunately, not enough times — which goes directly to your thesis. There was surely enough talent among those Gators to win a whole bunch, but they were more a collection of skillful individuals than a team. History might have been different had they been, although I’ll take history as it turned out every day except for those ending in “y”.

        • You never heard that from me, Sly……Mac really could bring in the talent, although it’s becoming more and more clear that once it was there he couldn’t really develop it to an actual championship level.

          That said, here is a scenario that may or may not have changed history as well. Let’s say Mac had hired Savage to be his S&C guru, and had made better choices at the OC job. And, let’s say that just for poop and giggles, he had developed a less antagonistic relationship with Foley. How might have things turned out then? I’d love to sit down over cigars with you and a couple of other guys, pondering those things — but alas……..

          • Just having a little fun on my continuing sarcasm spree my friend. I know you haven’t been a BBC member and I apologize if it came across that way.

            I think you meant the antagonistic relationship was with Stricklin, not Foley though. I haven’t heard of any conflict he had with Foley.
            It would be great to ponder (debate?) the many possibilities on the veranda with you and other fellow Gator compatriots some day, if they would have me, or after we are caught up in the sky, whichever comes first. Much blame has been placed on the OC and SC program, which I understand and they have merit. But at the same time, similar blame has not been placed on the poopy hand he was dealt starting with the lack of bodies on the offensive line, having to take lesser players on the recruiting trail just to build depth, and the necessity to play the many undersized and underdeveloped freshmen early. It does take time to develop players and a program, and it’s doubly more difficult with impatient fans, tensions with the new administration, and bad breaks with injuries and suspensions along the way. But we have now upgraded to a better coach, the fans are much happier, and all is well for the most part.

  4. This was a balsy call, and ever since that day I have wondered if it was actually the play Suckmiser called. An effeminate “man” who consistently made cowardly play calls throughout his epic fail of a career as an offensive coordinator, Suckmiser had never shown the courage to go for it before that play, and he never showed it after. Did he jab ten syringes full of testosterone into his brain and suddenly become a man for just that one special moment? Or did the players shake off whatever feeble play he called and improvise?

    I am still thinking the latter. If Suckmiser did, indeed, call this play, it was not only a “best moment” in The Swamp, but the absolute greatest moment Suckmiser will ever experience in his sad life– the one brief moment where he ascended to the level of being a man before reverting back to the pitiful thing he is.

    I will confess that like Spurrier’s Buddy Bianchi I allowed myself to be drawn into a vortex of delusion thinking that maybe our coaches had learned something from that game– that maybe they had discovered the mysterious power of the forward pass, that they had realized that their cowardly and ineffective offensive scheme was worthless, and they needed to open it up, but no. Uncle Yellow Teeth and his freakish band of morons were not capable of learning, and they rode their doomed scheme right off the edge of the cliff, screaming “bow down and worship us” even as they plunged to their destruction, smashing against the jagged rocks of reality and being utterly destroyed by their own impotent ineptitude.

    Most who observed their destruction simply nodded as they witnessed the inevitable, but two mysterious figures watched in the shadows, munching on deep fried Little Debbie snack cakes, mumbling, “Spoiled Gator fans are to blame for this tragedy!

  5. Is there a way to see the whole list? I can see up to No.7.
    Wondering where the following are:
    Spurrier’s kick against Auburn
    Bell’s 2-point run to beat Auburn in ’86
    It’ll never be on the list, but I remember Tebow running onto the field for the final drive when losing to Arkansas and the Superman theme playing over the loudspeakers. I thought to myself, “holy cow — this is a kid running out there with all these expectations!”
    The most significant play of 2018 — down 31-14 late third quarter to Cocks on 3rd and long, bad snap and Franks scrambles then hits receiver in traffic for first down. That play should have blown up and UF’s season would have ended terribly different.