Florida Flashback Series: The Fan's Perspective, McNeely's Touchdown



BY: KASSIDY HILL

GATORBAIT COLUMNIST

STAY SAFE


While assembling our list of the best Florida Flashback memories from the past decade, there were a few that we kept asking, "what would that have been like from the stands?" We have a good view from the press box, yes, but there's nothing like experiencing a once in a lifetime moment with 90,000 of your closest friends.


So for this play, we asked to hear from you, the fans. Here are your memories of the Mike McNeely touchdown.


...but first, a bit of background.


Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators arrived in Jacksonville on a chilly day as a two-point underdog to their SEC East rival. The Bulldogs were No. 9 and had one of the best rushing attacks in the country. If a Gator fan was confident heading into the game, they were lying.


At the end of the 1st quarter, Georgia led 7-0 in what had been a defensive battle thus far. The Gators began the 2nd quarter with a drive that featured 10 rushes from Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones as a sign of what would come in the game. A fumble (recovered by Florida) meant the drive stalled at the Georgia 21-yard line so Muschamp sent out his kicking unit. It was a completely expected move on 4th and 9 and, come on, it was "play it safe" Muschamp, so no one paid much attention to the personnel being different than normal.


When walk-on Mike McNeely, the holder, popped up and took off to the right, suddenly everyone in the stadium was paying attention. Tight end Clay Burton pulled to pick up a block and tight end Tevin Westbrook picked up the other. The slight McNeely made easy work of the lane they provided and high-stepped his way into the endzone.


The next day the University of Florida dental student was bagging groceries at the Publix on 34th street and signing autographs. But that touchdown remains as a play that fans will never forget.





I remember getting there early that day going through the tailgate party they have, where the indoor facility is now, just thinking I hope we don’t get embarrassed and keep it close. When McNeely took off I remember my jaw literally dropping after yelling OMG we called a fake. That feeling escalated to oh my there isn’t anyone out there on the edge to stop him either. When he cleared the LOS it was going to be a TD. The feeling of pure jubilation thinking ok we can beat these guys just like it used to be, and sure enough we did. It set the tone for the game going forward and I remember our half of the stands being as loud as I’ve ever heard it in Jax the rest of the game. Was one of the better Fl/Ga games I’ve ever attended.— @clburns4784

The previous week me and my mom drove down from South Carolina for the Missouri game and watched UF get blown out. Neither of us thought UF had a chance. The first quarter was about what we thought, UF played well on defense and couldn’t move the ball on offense, but UGA blew a couple of chances in the redzone to go up by more than one score. Once McNeely scored the entire mood in the stadium shifted. Once it was 7-7 the UF side came alive and something just clicked. I’ve never experienced anything like that. Suddenly the freezing wind didn’t feel nearly as cold and a lot of Bulldog fans around us sat down and shut up. From that point on UF just imposed their will on UGA. I’ve never seen a defense play as hard as they did. It was just a surreal day.— @Stevencalcutt

The McNeely TD was a huge moment in the series because it shifted momentum back to Florida. As Gator fans would say, it restored the proper order. UGA had the lead and won the previous three, then, in an instant, McNeely was streaking towards the end zone. The entire stadium was in shock and Gator fans were looking around, wondering who made the play. “McNeely! It was McNeely!” rang out from half the stadium. The sideline went ballistic. The players were just as excited for McNeely as they were for the TD. I go to Florida Georgia every year to see those moments. I’ll never forget it. I saw him (McNeely) at my local Publix later that week and told him I had a front row seat for that. He just smiled. I’m sure he had that interaction hundreds of times already and was loving every minute of it. — @JoshKelly12


I’ve been to several FL/GA games but I don’t remember one where I was less confident about our chances than that one (not even the 2017 McElwain/suspended players disaster). Honestly, I remember feeling pretty lucky that we were only down a touchdown at that point might end that drive by actually getting on the scoreboard. For a split second, I guess like everyone else, we didn’t know what was going on and the sounds of the fans around me I can only describe as a sort of collective, “ugh, we found a way to screw this up too”. But that change as soon as we realized the holder had enough for a first down...oh wait...he’s got a TD!!! Fear, turned to relief, turned to insanity. I remember turning to my buddy and saying, “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED!?!?” Not because I didn’t know exactly what happened, of course. But because, let’s be honest, no one thought Muschamp had that kind of call in him. And if Muschamp can make that call, and this kid we’ve never heard of can score a TD untouched in the biggest game of the year, Then, hell, we can actually win this game. In fact, we might be destined to win this game. I don’t know if the players felt that way or not, but as the rest of the game unfolded, it sure seemed that way. FWIW, I’ll also always remember singing “Turn Down for What” and the players jumping around before All Day Maye broke up their last gasp on fourth down at our two yard line. Amazing game that feel lucky to have been at. — @tedyeatts
It was my senior year, and also my first FL/GA game (always seemed to have something years prior). Like many there, my memory is a bit blurry. I do remember it was clear skies and the high stayed in the 40’s. The fake field goal was easily as surprising to Florida fans as it was to Georgia. After all, this was Will “Let’s see if the defense can get a stop” Muschamp. That play seemed to set a tone for three years. Even with the most hodgepodge teams (and, uh, coaches), Florida always seemed to have Georgia’s number. — @richtheg

I was at FL/GA that year, my first time going to that game. i remember going in expecting to lose big time, it being FREEZING cold, and sitting wayyyy up high. i was just excited to be there, had no expectations. but then that play happened, and i was so shocked, never saw it coming. the place went wild, and it was so so cool. i remember watching him run to his brother in the band to celebrate and feeling so happy for him but wow, that was a gator moment i’ll never forget for sure. — @madison_dunc

I was in the band at the 2014 UGA game. It was extra crazy for us, since mcneely’s brother Matt was our center snare. I didn’t know either personally, but the drum line went nuts, then word trickled throughout the band. The game up to that point was miserable, and a field goal wouldn’t have done much to change it, but that play and everything surrounding it was so special — @tsrobertson908

I was in the north end zone about 30 rows up when Mcneely ran the fake field goal in. It was an awesome moment because I was a student at the time at UF and worked at the Westgate Publix with him. I remember an ESPN reporter coming down the line and interviewing him while he bagged groceries the next week. Also, if I’m not mistaken Frankie Velez was the kicker at the time and he’s from my hometown of Ocala. We grew up playing pickup basketball and football in my friend’s neighborhood. So in short, really amazing memory and I can vividly remember watching him skate up the sideline untouched in disbelief. Go Gators! — @RobcMahoney
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