NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The play was installed months ago and worked on each week. Dan Mullen had already shown a proclivity for rolling the dice and calling trick plays but he needed another one Saturday.
Florida was trailing 21-13 in the third quarter. They came out of the locker room at halftime and went three-and-out. Vanderbilt drove down the field but stalled and missed a 25-yard field goal. Florida’s next drive stalled at its own 37 and Mullen sent the punt team out to the field.
“We needed some momentum, and it seemed like a good time to call it,”
The Florida sideline held its breath and Evan McPherson even admitted that Tommy Townsend was nervous about what would end up being the first fake punt of his life.
“We were practicing it all week and I was hoping Tommy would get the chance,” McPherson said. “During the week Tommy was like, ‘I really hope I don’t get killed on this play.’”
Townsend took the snap like normal and started to go through his normal kicking motion. Before dropping the ball he took off with nothing but empty field and blockers in front of him. He even lowered his shoulder and plowed into Chris Pierce, looking more like a running back than a punter.
It had former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee fired up on social media.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 13, 2018
The play kept Florida’s drive alive and ended with a 38-yard touchdown connection from Feleipe franks to Van Jefefrson that made the score 21-20. It was a shot in the arm and certainly the highlight of Townsend’s young career with the Gators.
“I love coach Mullen. He’s got a lot of energy. That’s the thing, he’s not scared to call big-time plays….Coach Mullen’s awesome,” Townsend said. “He has a lot of confidence in me, and I can’t thank him enough for that, for giving me the opportunity to run the call.”