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 continue with our choices for No. 4...
No. 4: Muzzling those Dawgs
Urban Meyer was Florida’s coach during most of my years at UF. I tell you this to illustrate why Georgia has always held a special dark spot in my heart and why those damn Dawgs (or Dwags) have long been an especially hated rival for me. Back in those days, the Gators were regularly defeating Florida State, and had begun their Tennessee streak. The Bulldogs, thanks to that 2007 stomping, were the rival that was most reviled and Jacksonville was electric when the two teams met.
Florida defeated UGA this year, doing so for the third time in a row. And after being on the wrong end of a three-game streak involving the Bulldogs not so long ago, it sure as hell is nice to be back on the good side. I’ll never forget the sheer absurdity of the 2014 win, the running game repeat in 2015, and the defensive dominance, with just enough offense, that put Florida over the top this past season.
I’ll look fondly on C’yontai Lewis’ catch to keep the Gators’ drive for their first touchdown (which he also scored) alive, Antonio Callaway’s only rushing touchdown of his Florida career (which made him the first Gator to score a touchdown in five ways), Florida’s 16 (!) quarterback hurries, and the Gators forcing seven three-and-outs and stopping Georgia on fourth down twice on their final drives.
It was one of Florida’s best defensive outings this year. The Bulldogs were held to 164 total yards and just three points. Georgia hasn’t scored only three points in this rivalry since 1988. Inflicting that kind of damage on a rival will always be memorable to me, even if some folks thought that game was terrible.
No. 4: A defense in bloom
Florida sending its seniors off with an Outback Bowl win — and being the only SEC team to have a victory in Raymond James Stadium in 2017, natch — was a pretty cool way to wrap up this season.
And only allowing Iowa to put three up on the board was also pretty magnificent. Florida’s defense, even though it was quite beaten up due to injuries, continued to prevail like it had most of the season, and spread cheer all around the Gator Nation for a majority of the game. Chauncey Gardner’s pick-six in the fourth quarter safely secured the victory and had our mouths watering for Outback lunch plans the next day.
— Ashley Kummer
No. 4: 12 plus 87 equals 98
I was there for Florida’s punt block to beat Louisiana in 2012, Florida’s loss to Georgia Southern in 2013, and Florida’s utter destruction of Ole Miss in 2015, and have seen essentially every moment of significance for the Gators from the mid-1990s onward.
Yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen something as absurd and wonderful as the 98-yard connection from Austin Appleby to Tyrie Cleveland for a touchdown at LSU.
Hahahahahahaha dying.— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) November 19, 2016
It wasn’t just the second-longest play in Florida history, or the longest play in Tiger Stadium history, or the only touchdown Florida would need to score to beat LSU in a game that had more than a month of bad blood getting the system coursing on that Saturday.
It was a fifth-year senior from Ohio by way of Purdue connecting with a true freshman made in Houston but raised in Jacksonville for a play that accounted for 14.3 percent of Florida’s completions and 68.1 percent of its passing yards on the day. And it saddled one of the Gators’ primary rivals to the utterly meaningless yet widely coveted title of DBU with a highlight of that freshman giving a highly-touted defensive back — who would later fumble after running into his own man on a kickoff, an appreciated bit of oneupsmanship — a ride to remember.
It was bizarre, it was necessary, it was brilliant, it was dumb, it was rare, and it was so, so simple — Cleveland went deep; Appleby threw deep; Cleveland torched and then shed his man.
For sheer absurdity, nothing in Florida history that I know of tops 12 and 87 combining for 98 — and nothing adding up is part of why.
— Andy Hutchins