With just 5:14 to play in the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl, Florida’s Jack Miller came onto the field for one of the most momentous drives in program history.
First play: A throw to Jonathan Odom in the flats that the freshman tight end turned into 17 yards, potentially suffering a serious injury to his knee in the process.
Next set of downs: Miller escapes pressure and chucks a wounded duck that Ja’Quavion Fraziars valiantly works back to, earning a third and short that Montrell Johnson converts with toughness inside the hashes.
But then Miller threw two straight incompletions, setting up third and long. And yet he had magic left, finding Caleb Douglas for 15 yards — then, like lightning striking, fired a pass to Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman, who ran it down to the Oregon State 6.
Suddenly, Florida was in position for history. More adversity would make that more difficult.
Trevor Etienne’s first and goal carry went nowhere. A bad snap forced Miller to leap on a loose ball and lose eight yards. A sack on third and goal moved the Gators back to the Beavers’ 23.
They would have to settle for a field goal.
And so on trotted Adam Mihalek, who had missed his only attempt earlier in the day, pushing a 53-yarder wide left. He lined up against an Oregon State unit that had seen all sorts of other special teams mishaps — blocked and missed kicks, blocked and botched punts — in Allegiant Stadium. The Beavers were so locked in on making the kick that one of the defenders on the field mocked the Gator Chomp while standing seven yards off the line of scrimmage, maximizing the intimidation.
The snap was good. The hold was good. And Mihalek’s 40-yarder was good!
It shortened Oregon State’s lead to the final 30-3 margin, reflecting their total dominance of the Las Vegas Bowl — but, more importantly, preserved a streak of Florida games without a shutout that now dates back 436 games to 1988, and put the fitting interrobang on the Gators’ by turns beautiful and bizarre 2022 season.
Sometimes, heroes wear kicking cleats, not capes.