University of Florida

Freshman Antonio Callaway’s 63-yard TD catch on fourth-and-14 lifts UF to record 11th win in a row over SEC rival Tennessee

AP

They practice it every Friday, but the play has never gone for a touchdown.

Not once.

But “Train Right Jill Big Ben In” was the perfect call Saturday night.

Florida trailed Tennessee by six points with 1 minute 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter when freshman wideout Antonio Callaway caught a deep curl on fourth-and-14, juking outside and sprinting 63 yards up the sideline for the game-winning touchdown.

The Gators survived a missed field goal in the waning seconds, capping a miracle comeback and a great escape to stun the Volunteers 28-27 for their record 11th consecutive win in the series.

“Our guys didn’t panic,” UF coach Jim McElwain said, fighting back tears.

“They played their hearts out. Down deep you just don’t lose to Tennessee. And they didn’t. Don’t know if we deserved it or not, but I sure like it this way than the other way. It was pretty cool, wasn’t it?”

Florida (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) was reeling against Tennessee (2-2, 0-1), trailing by 13 in the fourth quarter.

But a young Gators team displayed grit and resiliency, led by quarterback Will Grier

UF’s redshirt freshman was shaky and uneven most of the night, yet Grier turned into a dynamo late, especially on fourth down.

Grier engineered two scoring drives inside the final four minutes, and was a ridiculous 5 of 5 for 123 yards and touchdown on fourth down.

“We battled. We fought to the end, and that’s what you’ve got to do,” said Grier, who finished the day 23 of 42 for 283 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

“We were calm, cool and collected. This is something that we’ve practiced. We felt comfortable and felt we could execute. Guys stepped up and made big plays.”

They did.

Early in the forth quarter, Vols tailback Jalen Hurd scooted for a 10-yard score, but Tennessee coach Butch Jones mysteriously decided not to attempt a two-point conversion.

It cost the Volunteers dearly.

Grier answered with a methodical 17-play, 86-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard pass to Brandon Powell. The drive included three fourth-down conversions, with McElwain saying, “I’m glad we’re not in Canada, because you don’t get four downs. We went for it a bunch and we came up a winner.”

The Gators’ vaunted defense woke up, immediately stuffing the Volunteers for a quick three-and-out in the next series. Then Callaway, a star at Miami Booker T. Washington, cemented his name in Florida-Tennessee history.

“That kid right there is going to be something special one day,” UF linebacker Jarrad Davis said. “He’s awesome.”

Callaway, who told McElwain he would find the end zone Saturday, had five receptions for 112 yards and the improbable touchdown.

Florida took a quick 7-0 lead, as tailback Kelvin Taylor (19 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns) was the offense early on.

But Tennessee scored 20 unanswered points behind quarterback Josh Dobbs, as Jones dialed up two beautifully executed razzle-dazzle plays.

Dobbs caught a 58-yard touchdown on a throwback pass, and Tennessee tailback Alvin Kamara completed a nifty jump pass on fourth-and-2 to set up another scoring drive.

The Gators had a nightmare tackling both Dobbs — who led Tennessee in passing (83 yards), rushing (136 yards) and receiving (58 yards) — and Hurd, who chipped in 102 yards on the ground, before UF defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. forced and recovered a fumble to slowly turn the tide.

Still, Tennessee had every opportunity to snap its ugly losing streak, and decisions by both coaches in the final moments nearly changed the game’s outcome.

After Callaway’s heroic score, Tennessee quickly marched down the field for the possible winning kick. But Jones bungled the clock, twice, and was forced to use both remaining timeouts to avoid 10-second run-offs.

Vols kicker Aaron Medley completely shanked a 55-yard attempt as the clock expired, but McElwain called a timeout to potentially avoid a penalty for 12-men on the field.

Medley lined up to kick again, narrowly missing wide right by the slimmest of margins.

Just like Florida’s bonkers comeback win.

NOTES

UF is now 9 of 9 on fourth down this season. … The Vols rushed for 254 yards after the Gators surrendered just 166 rushing yards total in their first three games. … UF safety Keanu Neal recorded 13 tackles … It was a monster recruiting weekend for the Gators, as several blue-chippers were in attendance, including 2017 four-star quarterback commit Jake Allen (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), 2016 five-star wideout Nate Craig-Myers (Tampa Catholic) and 2016 five-star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (Wake Forest High, North Carolina). … UF is now 3-0 at home, equaling last season’s win total.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments