Anytime there is a big, dramatic victory, the ultimate winning play is the one we remember. For Florida football fans, Ricky Pearsall’s game-winning grab against South Carolina is a clip that Gator fans will remember for decades.
But as is often the case, the game-winning play can’t happen with some other key plays before it, and while it will get lost in Gator lore, Arlis Boardingham’s solo effort earlier in the drive is the only reason Pearsall had his moment.
Florida Football: 4th and 11
Part of what made Florida’s victory that much more cathartic was how improbable it was for the Gators to even be in a position to score a game-winning touchdown.
Trailing by 10 with under nine minutes to go, Florida started a drive that got to midfield, stalled out, and faced 4th and 11.
Given that the Gators were down two scores and the defense looked mortal all game long, Billy Napier made the correct choice to go for it. What didn’t seem like the correct choice was the play design, and Graham Mertz was forced to dump it off to Boardingham behind the line of scrimmage.
On paper, this should have been dead in the water, and if South Carolina makes a tackle, they probably go on to win the game, and Pearsall never gets to be a hero. The tone on social media would be far different, the calls for Napier to be fired would have grown, and the playing of “Sandstorm” after the game would have had a much different vibe.
But as we saw against Vanderbilt, Boardinham is an elusive runner once he catches the ball and he was able to scamper 14 yards for the first down.
The Gators scored a touchdown that drives from a juggling Boardingham catch; the rest is history.
As we pointed out last week, given Napier’s offense’s east/west nature, having a guy like Boardingham emerge is crucial. His pass blocking still isn’t great, as on eight pass blocking attempts, he gave up two pressures, a QB hurry, and a QB hit, according to Pro Football Focus.
But Florida is able to lean on him to be a check-down guy who can get yards after the catch like he has done the last two weeks, Florida might just be putting the pieces together for a viable offense to close out the season.