When UF quarterback Jeff Driskel, trailing by five points, had a beautiful chance to strike back with 6:57 left and his team on UM’s 17-yard line, Howard anticipated the route and grabbed the interception.
Gator fans dying to chomp stuffed hands into pockets once again.
Early in the second, with UF poised at UM’s 11-yard line, Rayshawn Jenkins made Driskel pay for a gamble with an interception. Seven minutes later, on fourth-and-one from the 16-yard line, a burrowing Driskel was stopped short by Denzel Perryman and Olsen Pierre.
UF maneuvered inside the red zone before halftime only to have Jimmy Gaines punch the ball from Trey Burton’s grip. Thurston Armbrister recovered the fumble, and another UF drive was extinguished. The play sent Hurricanes into the locker room bouncing on the balls of their feet while the frustrated Gators shuffled through the tunnel.
With time running out in the fourth quarter, Driskel couldn’t release the ball before being blindsided by Tyriq McCord. The fumble recovery on UF’s four-yard line led to Duke Johnson’s 2-yard touchdown scoot and a 20-9 lead.
Driskel said the three turnovers inside the 20-yard line “killed us.”
“When Denzel makes a play, I have to give back to him, and when Tracy got his pick, I said, ‘It’s my turn,’ ” McCord said. “I dream about a sack-caused-fumble and now I wake up and it’s reality.”
Saturday was one of those afternoons when all the teaching and learning switched light bulbs on in a burst of wattage. The defense, led by the omnipresent Perryman, held UF to 122 rushing yards. Without its grinding running game, UF’s offense is pot luck by chef Driskel.
It would be the height of college football fun to see a UM-UF rematch next year, but the series that dates back to 1938 ends with Miami holding a 29-26 edge. UF is preoccupied with its loaded SEC schedule and UM will have to search for other ways to sell out its rented home.
But for one more Saturday, at least, players and fans got to partake in the passion of a rivalry that deserves to be renewed.