GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Feleipe Franks heaved a 63-yard touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland as the clock expired, and No. 24 Florida beat 23rd-ranked Tennessee 26-20 in a wild, wacky and sometimes unwatchable rivalry game Saturday.
Franks scrambled away from the rush on a first-and-10 play with 9 seconds remaining and found Cleveland behind safety Micah Abernathy for a Hail Mary that no one — especially the Volunteers — saw coming.
The final play capped a crazy fourth quarter in which the teams combined for 37 points and little, if any, defense.
“Oh my gosh, it’s indescribable,” Franks said. “You grow up waiting for moments like that to happen in your life, and when it does happen, you don’t have any words to describe it.”
Here’s one: Unpredictable.
Tennessee (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) can blame three missed field goals for not being ahead late. The Gators (1-1, 1-0) looked as if they had the game in hand early in the final frame, but found a way to let the Volunteers get back in it.
Franks had one huge mistake — an interception in Florida territory that set up Tennessee’s tying field goal. The Vols had three plays from the 9, but failed to get in the end zone and settled for three points with 50 seconds left.
It looked for sure as if it was headed for overtime — and then Franks found Cleveland.
“It’s crazy, it’s crazy,” Cleveland said. “I think this is about the fastest I ever ran.”
Fellow receiver Brandon Powell was the first to congratulate Cleveland in the end zone. Powell slapped him so hard upside the helmet that it knocked his mouthpiece out. Their teammates and coaches — all of them — piled on a few seconds later. It was a surreal scene, especially for a team that didn’t score an offensive touchdown in the first seven quarters of the season.
Cleveland was one of the last players on the field. As he walked into the tunnel and toward the locker room, he turned and waved a final time to cheering fans.
He could have taken a bow.
“It was nothing to do with me,” coach Jim McElwain said. “Sometimes things like that are really special. I’ve got some burned images in my mind that I will carry with me the rest of my life.”
There was little to remember from the first three quarters. The defenses were mostly stout, but there were plenty of offensive mistakes and countless questionable play calls.
Tennessee coaches, players and fans surely won’t forget having the ball first-and-goal at the 1 and nearly throwing an interception on first down and then getting flagged for a false start on second. The drive ended with an interception.
Florida led 6-3 to open the fourth and looked as if it iced the program’s 12th win in 13 years against Tennessee when C.J. Henderson returned an interception 16 yards for a score.
Freshman Malik Davis followed a series later with a 74-yard run. But the touchdown was overturned on review after officials realized Davis fumbled at the 2. Justin Martin caught Davis from behind and knocked the ball loose. It bounced through the end zone for a touchback.
The Vols scored five plays later, cutting it to 13-10 on John Kelly’s 24-yard run.
But Kelly also made a huge mistake. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for doing the “Gator Chomp” in the end zone, and the penalty helped the Gators get the ball in Tennessee territory.
Franks found Brandon Powell in the flat for a 5-yard score, capping a 44-yard drive that gave Florida a double-digit lead.
Still, Tennessee kept coming back and figured it would end up in overtime for the second time in three games. It just never happened.
Memphis 48, No. 25 UCLA 45
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns, and Jacobi Francis broke up a fourth-down pass in the closing seconds in Memphis’ victory over UCLA.
Francis’ breakup with 56 seconds left prevented another fourth-quarter comeback by Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen. He was 34 of 56 for 463 yards and four TDs.
But unlike in the Bruins’ opener when Rosen led a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Texas A&M, the Memphis defense stiffened on UCLA’s final possession.
Ferguson completed 23 of 38 passes for Memphis (2-0), and his connections with wide receiver Anthony Miller meant the difference. Miller caught nine passes for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
UCLA (2-1) took a 45-41 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard pass from Rosen to Austin Roberts with 11:51 left. But Memphis answered with a four-play, 81-yard drive — the final 3 coming on a pass from Ferguson to Phil Mayhue with 9:56 left.
No. 7 Michigan 29, Air Force 13
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Donovan Peoples-Jones returned a punt 79 yards for a score and Quinn Nordin tied a school record with five field goals, helping Michigan overcome offensive struggles.
The Wolverines (3-0) didn’t lead by more than three points until Peoples-Jones’ touchdown early in the third quarter.
The Falcons (1-1) failed to convert a pass until Arion Worthman threw a short pass to Ronald Cleveland and the receiver turned it into a 64-yard touchdown play with 11:54 left in the quarter that pulled the service academy within three points again.
Nordin kicked two more field goals, late in the third and early in the fourth, to share a single-game school mark with three players.
Michigan’s Wilton Speight was 14 of 23 for 169 yards, missing some targets and having some passes dropped. Ty Isaac ran for 89 yards on 16 carries.
No. 8 Ohio State 38, Army 7
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Freshman J.K. Dobbins ran for 172 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Ohio State rebounded from a deflating loss to rout Army.
Dobbins broke away for an electrifying 52-yard touchdown run to open the second half after romping for 22 yards on the previous play, extending Ohio State’s 17-7 halftime lead. The Buckeyes (2-1) then got touchdowns on two of their next three drives to pull away.
J.T. Barrett, the target this week of critics who suggested he should be benched after the 31=16 home loss to Oklahoma, was 25 for 33 for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
He looked slick on a drive in the third quarter when he hit Marcus Baugh for 31 yards, then threw a perfect 20-yard scoring strike on a post route to Terry McLaurin in the end zone. That score gave him 106 touchdowns responsible for in his career, tying him for the Big Ten career lead with former Purdue star Drew Brees. Barrett broke the record on the next possession with a 9-yard scoring pass to Austin Mack.
The outmanned Black Knights dropped to 2-1.
No. 9 Oklahoma St. 59, Pittsburgh 21
PITTSBURGH — Mason Rudolph threw five touchdown passes, all in the first half, for Oklahoma State.
Rudolph completed 23 of 32 passes for 497 yards before being pulled in the middle of the third quarter with the Cowboys (3-0) in full command. He did throw his first interception of the season, ending a streak of 216 passes without a pick dating to last season.
It was the longest active streak in the FBS.
Jalen McCleskey caught seven passes for 162 yards and three touchdowns. James Washington added 124 yards receiving. Marcell Ateman (109) and Dillon Stoner (100) also reached the 100-yard receiving mark, the first time in 12 years a team has had four 100-yard receivers in a game.
The Cowboys did it despite missing LSU transfer Tyron Johnson, suspended for the game for a violation of team rules.
The Cowboys reached the end zone on each of their first seven possessions, including a pair of touchdown runs by Justice Hill. Oklahoma State converted all nine of its third downs in the opening half.
Pitt dropped to 1-2.
No. 10 Wisconsin 40, BYU 6
PROVO, Utah — Alex Hornibrook threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns for Wisconsin.
The Badgers (3-0) met little resistance as they put the game away in the first half and led 24-6 at halftime.
Hornibrook missed on only one pass all day. He completed 10 of 11 passes in the first half for 149 yards and two touchdowns. The second half was more of the same as he hit on all eight attempts. The sophomore put up career highs in passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions.
Jonathan Taylor gave the BYU defense fits as he repeatedly sidestepped defenders and finished runs with power.
The freshman running back gained 128 yards and scored once on 18 rushes.
The Cougars dropped to 1-3.
No. 15 Auburn 24, Mercer 10
AUBURN, Ala. — Kamryn Pettway ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns and Auburn overcame five turnovers to hold off FCS school Mercer.
After being held without a touchdown in a 14-6 loss at third-ranked Clemson the previous week, Auburn (2-1) could at least point to a stout defensive opponent as the reason for its troubles. Not this time.
Mercer (1-2), which only resumed its football program five years ago and plays a division down in the Southern Conference, gave the Tigers all they could handle, much to a chagrin of a disgruntled crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium — many of whom didn’t bother returning to their seats after a lackluster first half in which the Southeastern Conference powerhouse led only 10-3.
Much of Auburn’s woes could be attributed to an inability to hold onto the ball.
The Tigers lost three fumbles in the first half and another returning a punt on what should’ve been their first possession of the second half.
Jason Stidham also had an interception when Kam Lott ripped the ball away from Nate Craig-Meyers, a lackluster effort by the intended receiver that symbolized the entire afternoon.
No. 16 Virginia Tech 64, East Carolina 17
GREENVILLE, N.C. — Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson threw for 372 yards and five touchdowns — three to Cam Phillips — for Virginia Tech.
Phillips had a program-record 14 catches for 189 yards to help the Hokies improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2011. He punctuated his day with a perfectly executed route that left him wide open, and Jackson hit him in stride for a 45-yard score with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Both Jackson and Phillips called it a day before the fourth, as Virginia Tech roared out of a slow first-quarter start by scoring 57 straight points to turn this into a rout. That included 34 points and four TD throws by Jackson in the third quarter alone.
Gardner Minshew threw for two scores for the Pirates (0-3).
No. 20 TCU 56, SMU 36
FORT WORTH, Texas — Jalen Reagor made a leaping 38-yard catch between four defenders in the end zone on the last play of the first half, finally putting TCU ahead to stay against upset-minded SMU.
The Mustangs (2-1) led 19-7 before Kenny Hill threw three TD passes in the final 7 1/2 minutes of the second quarter. The last was Reagor’s catch in a crowd of Mustangs.
Darius Anderson ran for two touchdowns for TCU (3-0) in the second half, including the first drive after halftime. Speedy running back Kenedy Snell also scored twice, while Hill completed 24 of 30 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns.
Snell had a 10-yard TD run and later turned a short pass into a 71-yard sprint to the end zone. That long score put TCU up 21-19 with 2:40 left in the first half. Snell and Reagor are both true freshmen from Waxahachie, less than an hour from the TCU campus.