There’s something weird about a football game where teams combine for 17 punts but that also features a 79-yard run by a quarterback. It was that kind of game on Saturday in Gainesville. Just weird all around.
The weirdest part was that 79-yard run from Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks. With Florida’s offense in full stagnation through the third quarter, he took a broken third-and-12 play up the middle, then to the left, then right, looping back and forth before finally being tackled at Texas A&M’s 13-yard line. The run was the longest by a quarterback in Florida history.
The touchdown that followed one play later gave the Gators momentum, but that fire was eventually extinguished by three unanswered TAMU field goals. The last one, which came with 58 seconds left and was followed by a Feleipe Franks interception, lifted the Aggies (5-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) to a 19-17 victory over the Gators (3-3, 3-2 SEC).
Dre Massey scored Florida’s final touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter, which immediately followed UF’s new tradition of playing Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” with cell phone flashlights swaying to the tune. Massey rode the song’s momentum by stretching the ball over the right pylon for his first-career touchdown.
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Earlier in the evening, Florida running back Lamical Perine pummeled through three or four Aggie defenders to score the game’s first touchdown late in the second quarter. His score ignited a surge of sound at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and sent a sea of arms resembling rigid noodles into the air. Perine finished with 54 yards, while freshman Malik Davis led Florida’s rushing attack with 97.
Perine’s run was pretty much the extent of the early action on Saturday. The teams combined for eight three-and-outs in the first half. There was more weirdness near halftime, though.
Florida started a drive on its own 11-yard line with 28 seconds to the break. The Gators tried to run out the clock by running up the middle, but unexpected holes led to 11- and 32-yard gains by Davis. UF squandered a chance at points when Franks, with six seconds remaining, arched a downfield pass that fell incomplete.
Franks finished with 129 passing yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Throw in a partially blocked punt, some questionable officiating and Florida’s alternate “swamp green” uniforms, and the game just felt different. And when it ended, it was indeed a different feeling for Florida. After consecutive trips to the SEC Championship game in coach Jim McElwain’s first two seasons, a return trip is now nearly impossible.