Florida wins ugly over Tennessee, but Georgia emerges as real winner

Florida’s Tyrie Cleveland hauls in a 63-yard touchdown as time expires to give the Gators 26-20 win over Tennessee at Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. Tennessee’s Micah Abernathy was the defender beaten on the Hail Mary play. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Against the backdrop of his team losing the season opener by more than two touchdowns, and after closing the 2016 regular season with two losses by an aggregate of 85-29, Florida coach Jim McElwain chose an interesting way to appease a grumbling fan base.

He launched a new BBQ sauce. Right there, on campus, in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday, the same day the Gators opened SEC play against Tennessee, McElwain and his wife had a kiosk selling, “Mac and Blondie’s Mombo3.” It’s said to be a mysterious concoction of ketchup, spices and a few failed game plans.

“When I think of the sauce, I think of friends and family and being in a good place,” McElwain bragged to the Gainesville Sun.

Here’s what he wasn’t thinking of: Timing. Optics. The temperature of his target audience.

Florida and Tennessee played a football game Saturday. The undeniable winner was Georgia.

On the scoreboard, the Gators won 26-20. They won it on the sloppy game’s final spasm: a 63-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland with no time left in regulation. Florida beat Tennessee on the same play with from  the same distance two years ago in The Swamp: That was a 63-yard touchdown catch by Antonio Callaway in a 28-27 win.

“Train right open. Big Ben in,” McElwain said later of the play call.

Better to call it, “Prayer answered.”

Or, “Season saved.”

The Gators were on the verge of dropping to 0-2 for the first time since 1971. They played poorly enough to do that. The opponent helped.

So an area and a state punched in the gut by Hurricane Irma had something to celebrate. But everybody needed a shower after this one.

Florida and Tennessee combined for six turnovers, three missed field-goal attempts, a pick-six, a fumble out of the end zone for a touchback, 15 penalties and two dropped touchdowns.

Georgia smiles.

In what has become the annual question, “Who can win the SEC East Division and have a chance get humiliated by Alabama?” neither team on the field looked the part.

McElwain said afterward, “Well, that was a lot of fun.”

Then later, “Obviously, it wasn’t a thing of beauty. But sometimes in games like this you have to find a way to win.”

And, “We’re find a lot of ways to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Tennessee misfired more often. A Florida fumble in the fourth quarter set up one Volunteers touchdown that closed the Gators’ lead to 13-10. The teams, offensively dormant for three quarters — the score was 6-3 entering the final quarter — suddenly erupted for 37 points in the fourth quarter. Florida led 20-17, when Franks threw an interception that put the Vols in position to win.

They drove from the Florida 40 to the nine. There was 1:06 left, more than enough time to score. But Tennessee called three straight pass plays instead of once handing the ball to John Kelly, who had rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown. All of the passes fell incomplete (one was a drop by Kelly). Tennessee settled for a tying field goal with 50 seconds left.

The game appeared headed to overtime. This was not good for sauce sells.

But on the fourth play of the ensuing drive, seconds after hearing boos for a running play call, McElwain dialed up his prayer: Franks threw probably the best pass of his life, and Tennessee’s secondary inexplicably let Cleveland behind the defense.

“I was fast and straight,” Cleveland said.

That works.

Tennessee beat Georgia on a 43-yard final-second heave  last season. This one went the other way.

There’s no doubting the strength of Florida’s defense. But the Gators gave Tennessee opportunities to win this game. They were rejected. Georgia Tech wishes the Volunteers had been so kind a couple of weeks ago.

Florida led 6-3 early in the third quarter. Running back Lamical Perine fumbled at the Gators’ 49, and Tennessee drove to the 5-yard line. But on third-and-goal, Dormandy tried to force a pass to a receiver in the slot and threw it right to Florida defensive back Duke Dawson.

Florida led 13-3 after a pick-six by C.J. Henderson early in the fourth, and it seemed this game was put out of its misery in the fourth quarter when Gators freshman Malik Davis broke open for a seeming 72-yard touchdown run. But on Davis’ way to a celebration, Tennessee cornerback Justin Martin caught up and slapped the ball out of his hands just before the goal line. The ball bounced out of the end zone for a touchback.

It was that kind of game.

But it was a nice escape for McElwain. BBQ sauce is an appropriate condiment for him. He has been smoked slowly by a Florida fan base that grew accustomed to championships under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, so now he has something to douse himself with.

There’s already a joke around Gainesville that the sauce should’ve been called, “Mombo3-8.” That may seem harsh for a coach who has won two SEC East titles. But the SEC Championship game has been like a match race between the two fastest animals of different species: a cheetah vs. a sloth. There’s nothing to suggest the ending will be different this season. But Georgia could look at this game and feel good about its chances in the East.

Assuming it can beat Florida.

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Reader Comments 0

65 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

That OSU troll isn't really OSU. He just dresses up for the part the same way he dresses for Halloween. OSU fans may be obnoxious but they are not that relentless in pursuit of attention. Let's have some guesses on what OH:IO will wear this Halloween.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

DaltonbywayofBickley 17 hours ago

@MaybeMaybeNot There was/is an incredibly obnoxious OSU troll who did/does hang out here (don't know because I rarely visit anymore). Maybe that's it?

Understatement of the year Dalton!

OH:IO
OH:IO

"Remember this, too: The SEC East is still a flawed division."


Knoxville New Sentinel



BWAHAHAHAHAH That

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@OH:IO The Ohio State Football Team is the 3rd best team in their division. You read it here first , on the Jeff Schultz blog.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@OH:IO  Knoxville Sentinel:) I'd say they know all about flawed teams in that city.

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

Georgia hasnt played anyone.


Lets see what happens the next 2 weeks.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@UnbiasedObserver  Fair enough! However, you do get points for playing ND, even when they are only a shell of their storied history.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Where is Savior Skinny? 

ATLMike
ATLMike

florida's offense is as bad as last year. The dogs will beat them by 10+ and win the weak sec east. But, kirby will get a beatdown by nick in the sec title game. Alabama's light years ahead of any sec team.

.Aaliyah.
.Aaliyah.

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Hairy Dawg
Hairy Dawg

After Missy St. fake bulldogs beat LUSer bungle tigers they coming into Athens with a ranking. But real Dawgs from UGA is sending them home with a spanking. We show them what happens when face a real Dawgs team with Coach Smart instead that Coach Ogreron.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

Hey stumpy;

LOGS1973 July 17, 2017

Sorry dog.. The Jackets have little problem in

beating weaker SEC teams . . . GT 40 UT 17...

LOGS1973 November 3, 2016

GT should handle the Tar Heels . . . Jackets win by 14 .

Dogs in big trouble and lose to UK . . . Dogs lose big!!

LOGS1973 October 6, 2016

. . . UGA wins a big 6 games this year.

LOGS1973 September 3, 2016

The Heels should boat race the Dawgs . . . .

Tar Heels should win big!

LOGS1973 September 3, 2016

UT will win the East Bradley . . . You will be proud to be a Vol before seasons end and remember, good old Rocky Top!!!!!!

TideDawg
TideDawg

@twelveofthirteen  That's a real nightmare you put together there 12/13. But, it's just a nightmare and when you wake up.....It ain't true!!

TideDawg
TideDawg

Winning on a "Hail Mary" is better than losing on a "Hail Mary"....ugly of not. Watching that game was frustrating. I couldn't concentrate on who I wanted to win....I don't like either team.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TideDawg: "I don't like either team."

____________

My wifey and I used to endure that annually when watching florida and Auburn play.

Not so often now, but the dilemma's the same--you want them both to lose.


TideDawg
TideDawg

Dawgs are still struggling with an inexperienced QB and haven't really looked good at all. Be glad when they get back to a QB controversy. The Tide let Colorado State put 23 points on them.....not good. Looks like Ole Miss, and Miss. State QBs are going to make things interesting in the West division. Tennessee,...what can you say about Tn. except.....payback is hell. I think Tn. is going to shave Butch's head and fire that cannonball into the FBS.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TideDawg: ". . . what can you say about Tn. except.....payback is hell."

___________

Just wish that payback could be at our hands.

BobDawg
BobDawg

@TideDawg With our D we don't need to be super on offense this year... We've been waiting for our D to show up since early in Richts tenure... 

TideDawg
TideDawg

@BobDawg @TideDawg  I hope that D holds up against a strong offense. That Ms. St. QB and offense is a lot better than advertised. Kirby was hired to make sure the Dawg defense stayed well coached and stocked with talent that wants to play.

Hairy Dawg
Hairy Dawg

Haha.  The Orange Pumkins lost like they deserves for doing to us last year.  Both Gaytors and Pumkins look sorry and allow Dawgs to get all way to Benz unbeaten.  Another laughing thing yesterday was Judas Muschump got beat and Mizzou showing me they no good.  Dawgs got to keep practicing in games to get ready to beat Bammer at end of season.

Big Wally
Big Wally

hey 31-TO-Ohio, considering the big 10 had a team get blown out by an AAC team (Illinios) and another team, Nebraska just got beat at home by a MAC team, you might want to think twice before worrying about conference records chump.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@Big Wally  Not gonna happen. In the Big 10, or whatever, they have a brain warp that allows them to dismiss losses as if they never happened. OSU beat Army Sat........that should move them back into the top 3 in the country(in their mind and their voters)

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Big Wally

First-ever loss by Nebraska to a MAC team--and the Huskers had to pay N Illinois $820,000 for the privilege.

Looks like the general unworthiness of the grossly overrated big 10 is rubbing off on Big Red.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

OSU could have beaten Oklahoma especially with a 5th year grandpa QB BUT they didn't.

Shoulda? Woulda? Coulda?

62-16 when it matters

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO @twelveofthirteen

0-31, lying hypocrite.

Winless against UGA.

Winless against FSU.

ONE win all time vs SEC in bowl games.

True words, not lies.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

He is a chump clown that crys when things go bad just like the coach.

_Amelia.
_Amelia.

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DawgNole
DawgNole

"But Georgia could look at this game and feel good about its chances in the East.

Assuming it can beat Florida."

______________

Based on the past three decades, that's about as far from a safe assumption as you could possibly make.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@DawgNole


"could" and "assume" 


A winning combo, for sure.

tipstotips
tipstotips

UF receiver was a foot offsides on the play.

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

Assuming you can somehow beat Mississippi State after we just curb stomped LSU last night. Good luck with that ... clanga Lang a

DawgNole
DawgNole

@CowbellHell

You're the one who predicted Miss St would beat Bama a few years ago--remember?

You also predicted that Miss St would handle GT in the Orange Bowl--remember?

ZERO credibility.

______________

CowbellHell November 14, 2014

. . . Bama is overrated, bad OLine, cant run the ball on our [Miss St] front 7... shaky qb... we will dominate this game and win convincingly

CowbellHell December 15, 2014

. . . Not sure the jacket D will even slow our offense down . . .

State 41 Jackets 27


Hairy Dawg
Hairy Dawg

Missy St fake bulldogs won cause LUSer bungle tigers overrated with doofus Ogreron as coach. Now real Dawgs in Athens show Missy St what it like to face a top 10 team with Smart coaching. Seems to me you need change that name to CowPattyHell cause them patties is what you throwing round here.

OH:IO
OH:IO

dogs beat SaMMMMMford but "emerge as the real winner" 


Got it

YouLibs
YouLibs

@OH:IO 

OOOOOOooo-klahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain...

Ahhhhhh hahahahahahahaha!