Did you see that?
The Monday Morning Quarterback saw it, and let me go on record as saying, I didn’t believe it could happen.
Well, actually, I had all BUT given up.
The Gators seemingly improbable come from behind win over Tennesssee on Saturday was a crossroads of sorts for this young talented Florida Gators football team.
A team that needed to learn how to win did just that in the fourth quarter Saturday night.
A quarterback who had been criticized for his happy feet and tentative play, played with poise and bravado with under ten minutes to go.
A much-maligned offensive line played perhaps their best game of the season against the best defensive line they’ve faced thus far.
A running back that had yet to put it all together and live up to his five star recruit billing, had the best all-around game of his career.
And, best of all, they found not one, but two playmakers on Saturday in the Swamp.
And, for good measure, a fan base that had lost faith finally found a reason to believe once again.
To dream the impossible dream…
That’s the situation the Gators faced with ten minutes to go and Tennessee up two scores 27-14.
That was what The Monday Morning Quarterback tweeted after Tennessee scored their last touchdown.
After hitting “send” I turned to my boss who had asked me if the Gators were going to lose. I responded,
“Maybe. Unless Will Grier can finally settle down in the pocket and make some throws. Then they have a chance. There’s been open receivers all day, Will just needs to calm down and find them. Let them go make plays.”
Sure enough that’s exactly what happened.
A quarterback that been “using his legs as a check down” according to head coach Jim McElwain, finally stood tall in the pocket, made his reads, and fired the football with authority.
A quarterback who had been playing tentatively to that point led the offense on a 6 minute, 17 play, 86 yard touchdown drive to get within six at 27-21.
To dream the impossible dream…
You’d be lying if you told me you believed the Gators would pull victory out of the jaws of defeat before that drive.
But then Grier saved his best for last hitting true freshman Antonio Callway for a 63 yard touchdown to take the lead for good with 1:26 to go.
Callaway was sprung by a huge diving block from sophomore receiver Brandon Powell who had broken from his upfield route after Callaway made the grab.
Powell took out one guy directly and slowed the other two just enough to give Callaway a step and from there his straight line speed took over and the Gators were able to pull out their eleventh consecutive victory in the series between SEC east rivals.
Powell and Callaway had break out games combining for 10 receptions for 176 yards and two td’s (Callaway 5-112-1 td, Powell 5-64-1)
Twelfth year TE Jake McGee (5-57) and junior Demarcus Robinson (6-48) also played well getting first downs and keeping drives alive.
While the offense continues to be inconsistent and very much a work-in-progress, it’s encouraging that receivers are getting open, making catches, and making plays in space.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen that in the Swamp.
Something else that may have gotten lost in the shuffle with the late game heroics of Grier and Callaway was the play of junior running back Kelvin Taylor.
The Monday Morning Quarterback believes Taylor played the most complete game of his career.
He finished with 102 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.
His first touchdown was set up by a huge 47 yard run where he masterfully showed patience, setting up his blockers, making a quick cut, and showing good burst through the hole breaking an arm tackle to get down field and gash the Tennesssee defense.
As well as he ran, however, it was his pass blocking and blitz pick up where he really shined.
Oft criticized as a liability in pass protection, Taylor was money against Tennessee.
McElwain said after the game when asked why we didn’t see the two true freshman backs, the plan going in was to feature Kelvin. It was his game to show what he can do and he did not disappoint.
Finally, the young offensive line which got even younger mid-game as they rotated in three true freshman (Martez Ivey, Fred Johnson, and Tyler Jordan) played arguably their best game of the season.
While certainly not mistake free, there were a lot less of those assignment mistakes and silly penalties that doomed so many promising drives in previous games.
In fact, had Grier trusted his line a little better sooner, and made a few better throws, this one may not have even been close.
So a young team that could have folded didn’t. They dug down and found a way to win.
“Hell no (they didn’t give up when down 27-14),” Powell said afterwards. “They (Tennessee) were up 17-0 two weeks ago to Oklahoma. We keep fighting.”
This is a far cry from the team that always seemed to find a way to lose last season.
For fans who had all but given them up for dead it was a lesson that they can have faith once again.
“Everyone on the sideline’s demeanor changed when they went up two touchdowns in the second half,” linebacker Jarrad Davis said.”But we came back and we just keep fighting. We keep fighting.”
Yes, they fought and they won.
Just as importantly, they gave fans hope. And the fans responded.
“We used the energy from the crowd,” Davis said. “It’s crazy. You will not believe how much the crowd affected us.”
The grit and resolve Grier and the team showed in the fourth quarter bodes well for the future and a young team that has played like it to date, grew up a little on Saturday night.
You find a way to win when you refuse to lose.
“You just don’t lose to Tennessee and they didn’t,” said McElwain.
I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!