Before we get more than one month of distance from the 2016 Florida Gators football season, and into the muck of a new recruiting cycle and scrying spring football, we’re recapping our top five moments of the season that was. Today, we begin with our No. 5 picks...
No. 5: Having a damn kicker
I can still remember where I was when I saw the update Eddy Piñeiro had flipped from Alabama to become a Gator. It was a chilly December night and I screamed with joy in the middle of my little cousin’s Christmas performance – and I was not and am not even a little bit sorry for interrupting.
I think I can speak for a majority — if not all — of Gator Nation when I say I basically went into the fetal position every time Austin Hardin set foot on the field to kick in the 2015 season. That sounds pretty harsh, and I truly am a little bit sorry, but Hardin only making five out of the 14 field goals attempted in the 2015 season was a harsh reality that had to change.
Pineiro made 21 of the 25 field goals he kicked in the 2016 season — and gave Gator fans a bit more sense of relaxation every time we lined up for a field goal.
— Ashley Kummer
No. 5: –30–
Yeah, I know: Why on Earth would anyone remember their team topping Kentucky in a football game fondly? (Maybe ask a Louisville fan?)
But what Florida did in running its win streak over Kentucky to an absurd 30 games in 30 consecutive years was not just establish three decades of dominance over a conference foe. This was Florida’s best game of the season, I think, as the Gators’ defense utterly silenced Kentucky — remember: Florida defenders hauled in as many Kentucky passes as Kentucky players did — until a 40-point lead was on the board in the fourth quarter, the ultimately woebegone offense tallied 564 yards of total offense, looking explosive and efficient all the while. Eddy Piñeiro missed two field goals, half of his season total for misses, and missed one with a shank so bad it defied belief — and it didn’t matter one damn bit.
Kentucky also wasn’t the doormat it has been for most of those three decades in 2016, and this was Kentucky’s worst loss by margin all year — Alabama didn’t beat the Wildcats as soundly, and neither did Georgia or Tennessee or Louisville, which didn’t beat the Wildcats at all despite having the Heisman winner.
And, maybe most importantly, this game featured The Swamp at its peak during what was arguably the worst home slate of games in modern Gators history. I didn’t attend a game in The Swamp in 2016, missing out for the first time in seven years — and this was the one I most regretted not attending.
— Andy Hutchins
No. 5: Teez and Q become the Pick-Six Pals
What’s more fun than an interception? An interception returned for a touchdown. What’s more fun than an interception returned for a touchdown?
Two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, Florida’s consummate cornerback compadres, both snagged a pick in three of the same games this past season, against Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. You’ll recall Q’s beautiful one-handed sideline grab and Tabor “reading the play like he wrote the book” against the Wildcats, and Wilson’s touchdown-saving endzone pick and Teez’s timely snag in Florida territory against the Vols.
But the twosome’s performance against Missouri, recording twin pick-sixes on consecutive possessions in the second quarter against the Tigers, was pure entertainment. Tabor’s 39-yard scoring return was followed minutes later by Wilson’s 78-yard dash in for a score.
Tabor and Wilson are now headed to the NFL, and both project to be early draft picks. Florida fans have countless plays to choose from to remember the times these two spent as Gators, but one of my favorite memories of them this season was that rainy homecoming game in Gainesville where they both got into the end zone.