Florida Football: The Most Memorable Moment from Each Gators' Game in 2012
Will Muschamp had a vision when he accepted the head coaching position at the University of Florida. Even as the Gators struggled through a 6-6 regular season, Muschamp never wavered, continuing to believe that he could build a championship caliber team in Gainesville.
Shorty after losing to FSU last season and calling his football team "soft", Muschamp reaffirmed his confidence in being able to build the kind of team that Gator fans could be proud of.
"I have a clear vision of what we want to do and how we want to do it, I'm more excited today than the day I was hired. I know where we're headed. We're going to be fine."
In the wake of a 21-7 loss to Florida State, those words most likely fell upon deaf ears, but Muschamp showed this season that his plan is working and will work.
It wasn't pretty, it won't be with the the style of football Florida plays, but the Gators executed their coach's plan this season, and the results tell you where the Gators are headed.
2012 was filled with blowouts, shutouts, comebacks and even a miracle, so let's take a look back at the most memorable moments from every game this season.
The season didn't start off the way Gator fans would have hoped.
In an effort to try and establish Florida as a power running team that was going to out-physical their opponents, the Gators ran the ball against stacked fronts and found themselves in an early hole.
Florida would take a 17-14 lead into the fourth quarter before the most memorable play changed the complexion of the game.
With just over 13 minutes left in the game, Jeff Driskel found Frankie Hammond Jr. on a short pass. Hammond caught the pass, broke a tackle and was off to the races into the end zone.
Officially Jeff Driskel would be credited with a 50-yard pass, but it was the effort of Hammond that turned a short pass into a game-changing touchdown.
In the second week of the season, Florida faced off against Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel before he became Johnny Football.
Texas A&M got on the scoreboard first and led 17-13 going into the fourth quarter.
While the Gators defense stifled Manziel and the Aggies offense in the second half, Florida struggled to move the football on offense.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter, the Gators got into a rhythm, and Mike Gillislee was able to put an exclamation point on the Gators' final scoring drive. Gillislee took a pitch to the right, followed Hunter Joyer to the sideline and then tiptoed his way seven yards into the end zone. The play showed off Gillislee's athleticism and was his second touchdown run of the game.
The score put Florida ahead for good and moved the Gators to 2-0.
Three games in and we have a tie.
The first play is Trey Burton's 80-yard touchdown run.
Near the end of the third quarter, with Tennessee holding onto a 20-13 lead, Trey Burton lined up in Florida's wildcat package. Burton faked an end-around to Andre Debose and took off to his right. Burton had to take care of one defender with a stiff arm but went almost untouched 80 yards for a touchdown. The play swung momentum in favor of the Gators, and Florida would take advantage of it.
The second play comes on what could be considered Jeff Driskel's best throw of the season.
With just 30 seconds left in the third quarter and still holding onto a seven-point lead, Driskel rolled right, stopped, and in the face of two defenders, threw the ball across the field into a spot in the end zone where only Jordan Reed could come up with the ball. Officially the play was a 23-yard touchdown, but after rolling to his right and throwing to his left, the pass traveled about 40-yards.
Driskel showed great poise to be able to get the ball out with two defenders in his face and tremendous accuracy and arm strength to get the ball there and in a spot where only his guy could catch it.
At kickoff, there wasn't a single player on either team's roster that was alive the last time Kentucky beat Florida.
The outcome was never in doubt as Florida's defense earned their first shutout of the season, but there was one play that does stick out more than the rest.
Running a two-minute drill before half and trying to score points before halftime, Jordan Reed went over the middle and caught a pass in stride from Jeff Driskel. Reed was met by two Kentucky defenders who both hit Reed above the shoulders and sent his helmet flying. Reed was able to hold onto the ball and pick up a first down.
The hit was illegal, but Reed being able to hold onto the ball showed off his toughness in what was the play of the game.
The Gators came into this game with revenge on their minds. LSU handed Florida a 41-11 beating in Baton Rouge last season, a game that left Florida with a bitter taste in their mouth.
On a defense that played some of their best football all season, one player stood out above the rest. Matt Elam played like a man possessed as you can see in the video of him hitting his own player in celebration.
Elam filled the box score against the Tigers, finishing with seven tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble. He threw his body around the field like it was a battering ram.
Elam's best play, and the play that may have won the game for the Gators, came at the end of the third quarter. Marcus Roberson gave up on his coverage, thinking Zach Mettenberger was sacked and that left Odell Beckham Jr. wide open. Beckham caught the pass and took off downfield and gained 56 yards, only to be caught by Elam, who was able to rip the ball out as he made the tackle.
Florida recovered the fumble and took over the ball. Mike Gillislee would score on a 12-yard touchdown run to extend Florida's lead to eight and seal the victory.
Elam's hustle play gave Florida the momentum they needed to hold on to a victory in what was their biggest test of the season to that point.
Any time you break a record that was previously held by Tim Tebow, it's going to be a big deal in Gainesville.
Jeff Driskel finished the game with 177 rushing yards, a school record for a quarterback, but it was the last 70 yards that are most memorable.
Vanderbilt had cut Florida's lead to just a touchdown at 24-17 late in the fourth quarter. Driskel took a snap with 2:31 left in the game and ran past two Vandy defenders on his way to a 70-yard touchdown that iced the game for Florida.
Watching someone who is listed at 6'4", 237 pounds outrun two defensive backs was an impressive sight and showed off just how athletic Driskel can be.
Our most memorable moment came on the very first play from scrimmage.
South Carolina started their first drive at their own 17-yard line and wouldn't get very far.
Loucheiz Purifoy came on a blitz from his cornerback spot completely unnoticed by Connor Shaw and poked the ball out of Shaw's hand for a fumble. Florida was able to recover the ball at South Carolina's four-yard line and scored three plays later.
The fumble set the tone for the game and Florida finished with four takeaways on the day.
For the second straight season, Gator fans can't help but feel like they let Georgia off the hook. Florida turned the ball over six times and still had a chance to tie the game late.
The most memorable play, for better or for worse, was Jordan Reed's fumble in the fourth quarter.
With just 7:11 left on the clock and down eight points, Florida marched from their 26-yard line all the way into the red zone. On second down, Reed caught a pass from Jeff Driskel and set his sights on the end zone. Reed left his feet in an attempt to score but had the ball stripped by Jarvis Jones near the goal line.
The fumble was the low point for Reed's season and he was seen visibly upset on the sideline, but in no way should the loss fall on his shoulders.
It's the nature of playing in the SEC. After playing seven straight conference games and coming off of an emotional loss, the Gators needed to get back on track for their final conference game.
In a game that was offensively challenged all day, naturally a defensive play would be the most memorable.
Up 14-7 with 2:31 left to play, Brad Phillips badly missed a 24-yard field goal that would have iced the game for the Gators. This gave James Franklin and Missouri life and a chance to tie the game. Franklin led the Tigers down the field all the way to Florida's 21-yard line.
With just seconds left in the game and on fourth down, Franklin dropped back to pass, but his attempt sailed high into the waiting arms of Josh Evans. Evans came down with the interception and took a knee in the end zone with just five seconds left on the clock.
The interception was the fourth pick for Florida's defense on the day and sealed the Gators' eighth win of the season.
In the opening slide we talked about comebacks, close games and blowouts. We've covered all of those but haven't covered the miracle.
ULL came into the Swamp ready to play and Florida looked lethargic for much of the game. Jeff Driskel left in the second half with a sprained ankle and Jacoby Brissett had to lead a late fourth-quarter scoring drive to even the score at 20.
As the Gators defense held the Ragin' Cajuns in the waning seconds of regulation, Will Muschamp elected to save his timeout to give the Gators a chance at blocking a punt or going to overtime.
The play is called "black." It's a play that Chris Rainey used to block many a punt attempt during his time in Gainesville, but Rainey is in Pittsburgh playing for the Steelers. Not to worry, Loucheiz Purifoy filled in nicely.
Purifoy came off of the right side of the formation untouched and was just able to get his right hand on the football. The ball sailed through the air, end-over-end, seemingly forever before it came down in Jelani Jenkins' arms. Jenkins was led by five Gators on his way into the end zone with just two seconds left in the game.
The score put Florida up 27-20 and allowed the Gators to avoid what would have been the biggest upset in Gainesville ever.
On senior day for the Gators, it was the senior class that accounted for all 23 of Florida's points.
The most memorable play came on Jon Bostic's seven-yard interception return for a touchdown. It was Bostic's first touchdown as a Gator and it couldn't have come at a better time in his final home game.
The outcome was never in question in this game as the defense earned their second shutout of the season and Bostic's pick-six was the highlight of a stifling defensive performance.
The hit was downright violent.
The kind of hit that causes a stadium or a bar to stop what they're doing and say "OHHHH!"
With Jelani Jenkins out of the game with a foot injury, Antonio Morrison stepped in to replace Jenkins as he has at various points in the season. Morrison read the EJ Manuel run, lowered his head and launched himself at Manuel. Morrison didn't go for a strip but hit Manuel with such force that the quarterback dropped the ball and took several minutes to get up.
The Gators recovered the ball and Mike Gillislee scored from 37 yards out on the very next play, giving Florida a 23-20 lead.
The hit from Morrison changed the complexion of the game and was the turning point for the Gators.
These are the plays and moments that stuck out to me as I looked back at the 2012 season. Feel free to leave a comment down below if you think I missed one or if any other plays stick out to you.