Sometimes when a miraculous play at the end produces a stunning and improbable victory, all the negative stuff that happened earlier in the game tends to be forgiven and forgotten.
Such will not be the case for the Florida Gators.
Yes, they are gleeful about beating SEC East rival Tennessee on the final play Saturday on that incredible 63-yard TD pass from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland at The Swamp. But they are also aware that there are other aspects of their 26-20 win that they will not feel great about when they go over the tape of the game.
Many teaching opportunities will be on that tape.
The offense, although it started to finally click in the fourth quarter, lacked consistency and the ability to sustain drives for much of the game, especially in the first half.
The Gators also lost two critical fumbles, one by Lamical Perine after a 21-yard run on UF’s first play of the second half and the other by true freshman running back Malik Davis following a 72-yard run that went from a touchdown to a touchback after he was stripped and the ball went out of the back of the end zone.
The defense made some important plays down the stretch to prevent UT from taking the late lead, but the Gators pretty much ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. The result was a ton of missed tackles and 17 points and 231 total yards in the quarter alone.
So, there’s work to be done before the Gators take their act on the road at Kentucky on Saturday night.
Who: No. 20 Florida (1-1, 1-0 SEC) vs. Kentucky (3-0, 1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
“It obviously was not pretty, but sometimes as you go through this business, it’s about figuring out a way to win,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “And our guys figured out a way to win. We’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to do to continue to grow and get ready to go play a really good football team on the road.”
The offense flashed some promising moments Saturday, but the Gators continue to struggle to consistently make plays, sustain drives and find the end zone.
“Just again, playing with some consistency,” McElwain said. “Playing with some energy and get to the line and go. When they do that, they go play pretty good.
“Sometimes in life, it’s not about being afraid to be wrong, but rather, think what it is to be right. And we just wait to shoot ourselves. And, afraid to make a mistake, instead of just cutting it loose and going. It doesn’t matter the play, just go play it fast, and don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
“We’ll get there. But, we’ve got work to do. But I will say this: I like this football team, and I like these guys in that locker room. And, what they’ve been through, it was great to see the joy on their face.”
On the positive side for the offense, the Gators did finally create some space in the running game (even though Perine and Davis wasted the two best runs with fumbles). And then there was the way Franks finished the game. He threw a 5-yard TD pass to Brandon Powell give UF a 20-10 lead with 5:13 to go. Then, of course, he threw the perfect strike to Cleveland with no time left after rolling right out of the pocket.
“He had some plays that he’d like to have back,” McElwain said. “But you know what, getting a win under your belt playing an SEC opponent, I think he’ll just continue to get a little better.
“Hopefully, he starts the game that way next week. That’s what we’ve got to do. He was very calm (on that last play). I think the one thing I saw out of it was that he was just very calm. Didn’t get rattled after the interception.”
Franks and Cleveland said the way the game ended is a confidence boost for the entire team.
“We have, and I still believe, some of the greatest players in the country,” Franks said. “And when we all put our chemistry together and we’re all communicating and we’re all on the same page then we’re really lethal on offense. And I think towards the end it showed that. We’re only going to improve. That’s the good thing about that.”
Said Cleveland: “I think we got a lot of confidence coming off of this win. I feel like we’re going to come out against Kentucky next week and just leave it all on the field, play hard, play fast and just give it our all.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.