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Tennessee Vols leave The Swamp winless — again — during their game against Florida on Sept. 16. The Vols have not won in Gainesville since 2003.
Calvin Mattheis, Caitlin McMekin, Ayrika Whitney/Knoxville News-Sentinel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One dramatic, improbable play took a toll on Tennessee early Saturday evening.

Florida quarterback Felipe Franks’ 63-yard game-winning heave to wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland on the final play of the Gators’ 26-20 victory staggered Vols’ nickelback Rashaan Gaulden. He still was in a daze several minutes later.

“I kind of feel like I’m in a fog,” Gaulden said.

UT Butch Jones acknowledged the play’s impact. But he also referenced “an accumulation of plays” that occurred during both halves at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. He said their toll was equally staggering, albeit in a less memorable manner.

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“It’s a cumulative effect,” he said.

The Vols’ determined, resourceful rally in the final quarter ultimately couldn’t overcome a misspent third quarter. UT snapped the football in Gators’ territory 20 times during the fateful 15-minute stretch. The result was zero points.

The most frustrating series began at the 1. Five running plays had accounted for 29 yards on a drive that began at Florida’s 49. Junior running back John Kelly began the march with consecutive runs of 12 yards.

But on Tennessee’s first play from the 1, quarterback Quinten Dormady threw a jump-ball pass to Marquez Callaway that two Gators defenders nearly intercepted.

Although Jones mentioned the clarity of hindsight, the play seemingly didn’t bother him as much as the false start penalty that followed on second down. Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano had replaced Dormady for the snap because, Jones said, Dormady “tweaked a knee.”

Jones referred to Tennessee’s penalties in general as “catastrophic.”

“You can’t have that on the road,” he said. “It’s all about winning football. You can’t have that.”

The drive ended with Dormady returning to throw an interception from the 3.

After Tennessee’s defense stopped Florida, the Vols took over at Florida’s 36. A holding penalty and a sack scuttled that drive, which reached the 17. Freshman Brent Cimaglia then missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.

Overall, the Vols were 2 for 5 on field goal attempts. Cimaglia missed from 47 and 51 yards. Aaron Medley missed from 44.

“Sometimes we have to score touchdowns,” Jones said, “instead of  attempting long field goals.”

The outcome was a cruel fate for Kelly. He accounted for 237 yards of total offense, including 141 yards rushing.

“He was playing infectious football,” Gaulden said. “He had a lot of energy. We were feeding off that.”

But Kelly also received an unsportsmanlike penalty for celebrating his 34-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Florida benefitted from a short field on the ensuing kickoff and countered with a touchdown.

“That celebration penalty was a big penalty,” Gaulden said.

Kelly also couldn’t haul in a pass on UT’s final drive that might’ve resulted in a touchdown.

Florida eventually took advantage with its final stunning score.

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