Florida has now won 11 straight over Tennessee, but none of the previous ten wins came in a fashion as incredible as the last one. It was one of the truly epic games ever played in the history of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and perhaps in the history of college football as well. And although it ended with Tennessee missing a field goal as time expired, the 2015 Florida-Tennessee game will always be remembered for this play.
The play. http://t.co/2UhekVj9U5
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) September 27, 2015
So now that our hearts have returned to their normal rate of beats per minute, let’s relive the play one more time, and break it down.
It’s 4th and 14. Game on the line. Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek has had a lot of success against the Gators’ offensive line, but here he elects to only send four rushers against the five man Florida front, plus running back Kelvin Taylor, who’s next to Grier in the backfield. Can Florida’s offensive line finally win a battle?
Meanwhile on the outside, Antonio Callaway (A, highlighted in blue) and Brandon Powell (B, highlighted in white) are running similar routes on the bottom of the screen. They each have two jobs: get past the first down marker, and get open.
One second after the snap. So far, so good for Florida’s offensive line, as nobody’s gotten humiliated yet. Their job was made easier, though, by Jancek having his edge defender (4) spy instead of rush. So it’s become a matchup of 5 vs. 3, with Kelvin Taylor as an if necessary sixth blocker.
Two seconds after the snap. Tennessee doesn’t know it yet, but they’re screwed. Florida may not have the nation’s best offensive line, but they have one that’s good enough to win a battle in which they outnumber the opponent two to one. Two of the Vols’ three rushers get double teamed; David Sharpe (78) and Trip Thurman (63) take care of one, and Cameron Dillard and Antonio Riles stone the nose tackle. And on the bottom of the screen, Mason Halter does his job and stymies the defensive end.
All that’s about to add up to teach Tennessee a valuable lesson: don’t overestimate your own defense, because it sucks. Because not only did their 3 on 5 matchup in the trenches not work, but Will Grier has found his target by now and is about to exploit the Vols’ weak secondary in a catastrophic way.
At this point, Grier recognizes that Antonio Callaway has gotten his defender all turned around and is in the process of throwing it to him on a crossing route. Callaway has done both of his aforementioned jobs: he’s gotten past the first down marker, and he’s gotten open. Or he’s about to anyway, with one cut across the field in front of the cornerback at the 48 yard line (Malik Foreman, #13). Meanwhile, the two deepest defenders have recognized that Grier is about to throw, and ready themselves to spring toward the football once it’s thrown. But Callaway has one huge advantage: he knows exactly where the ball is going and the defenders do not.
Powell, meanwhile, is going to try to fool the defenders by continuing to run deeper, as if Grier is going to throw a Hail Mary. The defenders aren’t fooled, though, and Powell’s effort to draw them away from the area isn’t needed, as Grier is already in mid-throw.
The ball is thrown in a perfect spot, right where Callaway cut to. In fact, Callaway made his break so early that he was already there waiting for the ball instead of catching it in stride, and still well before Foreman could get there. Meanwhile, Powell is already behind the defense… who has unfortunately for Tennessee, forgotten all about him. That’s about to cost them the ball game, but not quite in the way they think.
Callaway makes the catch and hesitates just a split second. He’s gotten the game saving first down, but sensing immortality, he’s looking for more. He decides to try to make Foreman miss by wheeling around toward the near sideline. Meanwhile, Powell continues wandering further downfield, a development that will come into play in the next frame.
That split second hesitation by Callaway allows Foreman to fly past him, so he circles back around him and gets to the sidelines. It also allows Powell to surreptitiously get further downfield, but at this stage of the play, instead of as a receiver, Powell is doing so as a blocker. He’s merely a jet plane now, taxiing out to the main runway, where he can make the turn onto the runway and take off- right into the Tennessee defenders.
Foreman is about to miss, taking him out of the equation, so now let’s meet the remaining two Vols with a chance to stop Callaway: #12 Emmanuel Moseley and #37 Brian Randolph. Both have taken their eyes off of Powell and have focused on stopping Callaway. Good intentions, but a fatal mistake.
All three Tennessee defenders- Foreman, Moseley and Randolph- have totally forgotten about Powell by now, and have keyed in on stopping Callaway somewhere between the 42 and 40 yard lines. Powell’s off the screen now, but he’s turned onto the main runway and has been cleared for takeoff.
Both Moseley and Randolph have realized that they’ve underestimated Callaway’s speed, so they recalculate a new target spot- one further down the field- to meet and presumably tackle him. However, in doing so, both have completely forgotten to account for Powell- too late. Powell is now barreling back upfield at full speed, and lays out Randolph…
…and now Callaway has broken free. It’s a footrace, and Callaway doesn’t lose too many of those.
And he’s not going to lose this one.
And a blue Swamp is a happy Swamp.