GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WATE) – Tyrie Cleveland was one of the last players to leave Florida Field. He slapped hands, posed for pictures, and just before disappearing into the locker room tunnel, he turned and waved one final time. He easily could have taken a bow.
Cleveland hauled in a 63-yard touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks as time expired, and No. 24 Florida stunned 23rd-ranked Tennessee 26-20 in a wild, wacky and sometimes unwatchable rivalry game Saturday.
Franks scrambled away from the rush on a first-and-10 play with 9 seconds remaining and found Cleveland behind safety Micah Abernathy for a Hail Mary that no one — especially the Volunteers — saw coming.
“Growing up, I always dreamed of making that game-winning touchdown,” Cleveland said. “To make it come true is undescribable.”
The final play capped a crazy fourth quarter in which the teams combined for 37 points and little, if any, defense.
Florida set the tone on the opening drive, connecting on a 27-yard field goal to cap off a 15 play drive.
Tennessee seemed to have an answer but the 9 play drive stalled after Quinten Dormady was intercepted by David Reese. Following the interceptions, both team’s offenses sputtered to gain yards, resulting in four consecutive punts.
After another Gators field that gave Florida a 6-0 lead, Tennessee freshman Brent Cimaglia booted a 51-yard field goal to cut Florida’s lead to three. The kick was Cimaglia’s first attempt of his college career and
Gators field goal and the longest converted field goal for Tennessee since 2013. Cimaglia attempted two more field goal, one at 47 yards and the other again at 51. Both were misses for the rookie.
The score would not change again until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Tennessee had its opportunities to take the lead outside of the missed field goals. After Marquez Callaway put the Vols on the Gators 1-yard line with a 22-yard reception from Dormady, Tennessee’s offense went to sleep. Facing first and goal, Dormady’s pass fell incomplete although it could have been intercepted. The Vols followed that up with a false start before Josh Palmer dropped a potential touchdown in the end zone on second down. Dormady was then intercepted for a second time.
Dormady threw his third interception of the game on the Vols own 7-yard line, this time resulting in a Gators touchdown. CJ Henderson returned the tipped pass turned interception for 16 yards to the end zone, putting Florida on top 13-3 with just over 14 minutes to play. It was Florida’s third interception returned for a touchdown in two games, as the Gators returned two for scores against Michigan on Sept. 2.
Tennessee hosts UMass (0-4) next Saturday. It’s the first meeting between the schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.