A night to remember when Gators took care of business against Seminoles

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask threw three first-half touchdown passes, including two to Freddie Swain, and the eighth-ranked Gators hammered the Seminoles 40-17 to end a four-game, home losing streak in the series Saturday. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

It wasn’t perfect. There was a running game that went nowhere and a fake punt that was a really bad idea and a defense that seemed to have mistakenly taken melatonin at the start of the game.

But other than that, it was darn close

The weather.

The end of the third quarter. (I especially liked the crowd continuing to sing “I Won’t Back Down” a cappella while Evan McPherson drilled a field goal to make it 40-17).

The moments that you will take home with mental snapshots. 

The ghost of Willie Taggart showing up for 13 penalties against the visitors, many at crucial times. 

The win to close out a perfect season at home.

Beating FSU and clearly being the much better team.

 The way they sent out these seniors.

“You love to beat the Semis like that and then Miami to start the year,” UF coach Dan Mullen said, using a Steve Spurrier-ism for the FSU nickname.

Pretty darn close to a perfect night.

There was nobody at the end of this Florida-FSU game running around the field with an alligator head as there had been the last four times the Seminoles had come to Gainesville. 

That, in itself, should be enough.

Instead, this team once again took care of business with a steely-eyed quarterback and a running game that really isn’t a running game but ends up being effective. The short throws to the perimeter were turned into long plays and even touchdowns.

This night, this near perfect night, was about the four seniors receivers more than anything.

Certainly, all of the seniors who helped get Florida back to this point where consecutive 10-win seasons feel like a beginning more than like the finish of something deserved for their final game in The Swamp to be like this.

“It’s special,” Mullen said. “They played hard for the Gators. They came here to be Gators.”

Especially those receivers. 

A transfer, two guys who feel like they have been here forever and the guy who kind of epitomizes the buy-in for Mullen. Tyrie Cleveland got one of the biggest cheers when the seniors were introduced Saturday night. Maybe it was because they’ll never forget the Heave To Cleve against Tennessee.

Or maybe it was because a guy who hasn’t really been a big part of the offense this season still became a demon on special teams. That’s buying in to the max.

And he was rewarded on this night along with those other senior receivers. Their linescore told everything you needed to know about this game, but it barely touched the surface of what they have meant to this program.

Let’s get those stats out of the way.

Cleveland, Freddie Swain, Van Jefferson and Josh Hammond combined against FSU for this:

18 catches, 219 yards and four touchdowns.

Some of it was because of what FSU was giving Florida. The bubble screens were there all night and worked in lieu of a running game. Some of it was to feed the seniors who have done so much.

But most of it was that these guys are and have been really good this year.

So has the rest of this team. 

Not good enough to be in the College Football Playoff. But there aren’t many of them (four to be exact; I looked it up).

The guys that will be back have this to build on. The guys who won’t will always have this night to remember.

The night they dominated with older guys, but still showed what the younger guys are capable of. 

Naw, it wasn’t perfect.

There was that one 50-yard run, the one Cam Akers seems to have once a game. There were eight third downs that Florida didn’t convert (OK, now I’m getting greedy because UF was 8-of-16).

There was that one time they couldn’t punch it in from the shadow of the goal line. 

And did I mention the fake punt?

But it was a first-rate butt-kicking by a team that owns the state and the state championship (Power Five teams only; sorry, it’s the world we live in.)

Florida is 10-2 and will find out its bowl destination in a week. 

“Hopefully a New Year’s Six bowl, maybe more,” Mullen said. “Baylor beat a team with six wins and jumped five spots. That’s what we just did.”

And there is this — the other two teams that used to be big shots in the state are now 12-12 heading to the Weedeater Bowl or wherever else they send .500 teams.

“You always want to beat your neighbor,” Mullen said.

And I’m guessing for Gator fans on this night, it felt pretty perfect. 

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.


      • No, just when he jumped the snap count or was offsides, which he was flagged for. Yes, the guy weighs closer to 400lbs than 300 and he gets a good push, but FSU had zero sacks to our eight sacks. Their pass rush was non-existent. Like I said above, we had all night to throw the ball and we did. Our O-line, especially Buchanan, deserves credit for that.

        • Brudder, I sure didn’t mean to imply that all that’s not true — but man, that kid has an NWA career ahead of him if the NFL doesn’t work out. He could be the next Haystacks Calhoun or Man Mountain Dean!

          • Keowee, I actually met Gordon Soley back in ’73 at the old Tampa Sportatorium……nicest guy you’d ever want to meet and a pretty smart cookie to boot. I lived off Dale Mabry just behind Malio’s Steakhouse where ol’ John Matuzak used to work, and there were some apartments behind my house that the pro wrestlers used to rent when they were in town for 3 or 4 months, so I got to meet quite a few of them too talking over the fences. It always amazed me how well educated and well spoken most of those guys were, not at all what they were on TV. Even Kevin Graham, who everybody thought was a wierd-o first class!

          • Haystacks Calhoun…LMAO!

            That brings back memories of gorging at Duff’s Famous Smorgasboard, followed by guzzling as many beers as would fit, followed by Jack Briscoe, Dusty Rhodes, Don Muraco, etc. etc. at the old Melbourne Civic Auditorium.

            Good times, albeit about forty years ago…

          • Jack and Jerry Briscoe, Dick Murdock and Dusty Rhodes, the Funks, The Great Malenko, Hiro Matsuda, and of course, Gordon Solie…”So long from the Sunshine State”. My Saturday afternoons as a kid. Back in the 21st century, I want to thank Coach Mullen for ending the home losing streak to the Criminoles along with all the other streaks he brought to an end and for making Gator football fun to watch again.

          • Hey, 6, wasn’t it Kevin Sullivan, not Graham? As I recall, there was the father/son team of Eddie and Mike Graham, and unfortunately, Eddie took his own life. I can still hear Gordon Solie saying “Just look at the definition and confirmation of the quadriceps femoris muscles” or “It’s turning into a Pier 6 brawl”. I can also hear Dusty Rhodes saying “Thome dueths are gonna be paid, Gordon Tholie! Thome dueths are gonna be paid! Let’s not forget The Canadian Freight Train (or lumberjack, if you prefer) Jos LeDuc. Ahh, good times.

  1. Loved Haystacks and his Big Splash. Once interviewed Harley Race. Mean-looking guy, but fairly nice.
    Meanwhile, this senior receiving crew was terrific. Reminds me of the great days with Jacquez Green, Ike Hilliard, Travis McGriff and Reidel Anthony.
    Go Gators.