Tyrie Cleveland

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No. 23 Florida clinches SEC East with goal line stand at No. 16 LSU

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The wait appeared to be worth it for No. 23 Florida (8-2, 6-2 SEC) as the Gators clinched the SEC East with a 13-10 victory on the road against No. 16 LSU (6-4, 4-3 SEC). The game, originally scheduled to be played in Gainesville earlier this year but was rescheduled due to a hurricane, was quite the physical one that saw the Gators fund an edge on the ground in the fourth quarter. A 26-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro with 4:37 to play gave the Gators a lead and the special teams unit recovered a fumble by LSU on the ensuing kickoff to run some more clock. But it was a goal-line stand on the final play of the game that would put the game in the win column for the Gators.

Down 16-10, LSU had the football with a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line and got two plays from the one-yard line to punch it in for a game-tying touchdown and potential game-winning PAT, but the Gators thwarted the Tigers when Derrius Guice lept over the pile and was stopped short of the goal line on the final play of the game.

Jordan Scarlett rushed for 108 yards and freshman Lamical Perine showed he can carry a pile on a key late drive. The play of the game, however, came shortly after LSU botched a field goal try and had a desperation pass by holder Josh Growden fall incomplete to allow Florida to take over from their two-yard line. Austin Appleby unloaded for a deep ball down the right sideline to Tyrie Cleveland, who broke a tackle and raced his way the remaining distance of the field for a 98-yard game-changing play to finish off a 10-point swing. The 98-yard scoring play more than doubled Florida’s offensive output at that point in the third quarter (68 total offensive yards before the play).

LSU running back Leonard Fournette was not scheduled to play today but reportedly convinced Ed Orgeron to allow him to play after a pregame dustup lit a fire under the banged-up Fournette. Fournette carried the football 12 times for 40 yards.

With the win, Florida clinches its second-straight SEC East Division title, which means the Gators are heading to Atlanta for a repeat of last year’s SEC Championship Game against SEC West champion Alabama. Alabama clinched the West last week with a win and an Auburn loss. It will be the first repeat SEC Championship Game matchup since Alabama and Florida clashed in the 2008 and 2009 conference championship games, although both of those games were between the top two teams in the country those seasons. Alabama may be the top team this year, but Florida will likely be outside the top 10. The SEC East hasn’t had a representative in the top 10 for the title game since No. 5 Missouri in 2013. Alabama and Florida have also met in the SEC Championship Game eight times prior to this season. Each team has won four meetings.

Before the SEC Championship Game, Florida will play rival Florida State next week in Tallahassee. LSU will close out its regular season on the road against Texas A&M.

Rocky Slop: Tennessee comes up empty twice inside 10-yard line, Florida leads 21-3

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If this was supposed to be the year Tennessee finally came out on top in the SEC East, the Florida Gators did not get the memo. Florida is up 21-3 on Tennessee in Knoxville at the half, thanks in part to a Vols offense that has imploded inside the 10-yard line twice in the first half. Tennessee was booed off the field, while on offense, as the final seconds ticked away in the first half. It has been 11 long years since experiencing a win over Florida, so you can imagine the pent-up frustration the home crowd has.

The tempers flared right from the opening kickoff, with Tennessee being called for an unsportsmanlike penalty on the opening kickoff, giving Florida 15 free yards without running a play. Two plays later, Florida starting quarterback Austin Appleby completed a 51-yard pass to Antonio Callaway to the Tennessee four-yard line. Three plays later, the Gators jumped on the Vols with a short pass from Appleby to DeAndre Goolsby for a 7-0 lead right out of the gates.

Tennessee looked to catch a huge break on special teams when Callaway failed to hold on to a punt. Tennessee recovered at the Gators’ two-yard line but was unable to punch it in from the door step on four straight plays. Marcus Maye broke up a pass from Joshua Dobbs intended for Alvin Kamara on fourth down. Down 14-0 in the second quarter, thanks to a touchdown pass from Appleby to Jordan Cronkrite to finish off a 93-yard drive, the Vols worked their way back to inside the 10-yard line and seeing a chance to build some momentum. That hope was dashed when Quincy Wilson picked off a pass from Dobbs to the back of the end zone on third and goal.

Florida turned what could have been three or seven points for Tennessee into a 21-point lead. On the first play of the ensuing possession following the turnover in the end zone, Apply picked up 20 yards through the air with Callaway hauling in a pass.Later, on 2nd and 3, Appleby completed a 36-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland, and a few plays later it was 21-0 after a video review to confirm Jordan Scarlett had punched one in from the one-yard line.

Nothing has gone well for the Vols, but credit Florida for making the plays they have bene making. The Gators have made plays on both sides of the football and avoided letting a special teams hiccup burn them.