CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Swamp had been all but drained that September day, with Florida trailing Tennessee by two scores in the final 5 minutes.
Then freshman Will Grier delivered a comeback so stunning it may forever chomp at the craw of Vols fans (not to mention the legacy of Butch Jones).
Florida 28, Tennessee 27: It altered the outcome of the 2015 SEC East race, and even three years later, playing at another school, Grier can’t help but glow at the fourth quarter’s retelling.
His 5-yard touchdown to Brandon Powell trimmed the deficit to 27-21 with 4:09 left. Then, at the 1:39 mark, came the fourth-and-14 miracle — infamous in Knoxville, legendary in Gainesville — on which Antonio Callaway raced 63 yards for the winning score.
As Grier prepares to face Tennessee again, he recounts the details of that pivotal drive:
— “It was one of those critical moments where we weren’t really rolling. On first down we tried a screen and lost 4 yards. Then D-Rob (Demarcus Robinson), a great player who’s with the Chiefs, dropped an out and it kind of deflated him and us.”
[Grier subsequently threw incomplete for Robinson again, bringing up fourth down from the Gators’ own 37.]
— “We were going berserk trying to get the call in, kind of scrambling. They’re trying to get the play in and I can’t hear. I run over to get the call and then run back, so the play clock’s running down.”
[At the snap, less than 4 seconds separated Florida from a delay-of-game.]
— “I went through my reads.”
[Callaway, lined up in trips formation wide right, was the second option. He ran a deep curl. Against the Vols’ three-man rush, Grier had a comfortable pocket.]
— “Callaway’s clearly a talented player — I think we’ve all seen that now. He was not only in the right spot, but he caught the ball and did something with it.”
[With Tennessee playing zone, Callaway’s c curl route was deep enough for the first down. But when he pivoted on the catch and spun toward the sideline, Vols cornerback Malik Foreman overran the play and lost containment. Suddenly Callaway saw a path down the sideline.]
— “Great block from Brandon Powell. Shout out to BP. He came back and made a block that kind of sealed it.”
[After running a deep out, Powell raced back to submarine safety Brian Randolph, thinly Vol defender with an angle to catch Callaway.]
— “That place went crazy. It was awesome. An electric moment.”
[In the booth, Voice of the Gators Mick Hubert saw Callaway get beyond the defense and shouted: “He’s going to score! HE’S GOING TO SCORE! HE’S GOING TO SCORE!” On the field, offensive lineman Antonio Riles crumpled Grier with a 315-pound bear hug.]
The loss ultimately cost Tennessee the SEC East Division title.