Freddie Swain needed to make a move.
With the Gators leading bitter rival Florida State by just six in the second quarter but approaching the red zone, he caught a screen pass from quarterback Kyle Trask a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Seminoles safety Cyrus Fagan had him in his sights.
Swain had other plans.
The senior receiver hesitated and took a stutter step to the right before breaking it back out left. He shrugged off Fagan’s hit and tight-roped the sideline, heading in for the score to give Florida a 20-7 lead.
FSU never got it back within single digits as Florida rolled in a 40-17 blowout win.
For Swain — as well as most of UF’s starting skill position players — the victory over Florida State marked the last time he would take Steve Spurrier-Florida Field in his UF career.
Coach Dan Mullen said after the game that he’s grateful for the way his senior class bought into his message.
“I thanked all of them, every single one of them,” he said. “I said, ‘Thanks for believing in me,’... it’s a great honor for guys to do that.”
Despite leaving the game in the first half with a lower-body injury, Swain still managed to lead Florida with 62 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five catches.
Fellow seniors in the pass-catching corps — Van Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond — all were productive in their final home outings, as well.
Cleveland said the seniors were a big part of the game plan.
“(Mullen) knows we did a lot for the program, and he just wanted to have us be in the right plays and just have us go out there and show our abilities,” he said.
Jefferson was No. 2 in receiving for UF, reeling in five catches on as many targets for 48 yards and two scores of his own, while Cleveland had four catches for 44 yards and returned a kickoff 40 yards to set up a field goal drive in the third quarter.
Hammond had the least impressive game of the four, but still surpassed his 27.91 yard average with three catches for 39 yards.
Running back Lamical Perine didn’t have an eventful night on the ground (four carries, 18 yards), but he contributed in the pass game, making three catches for 40 yards.
Several defensive seniors also made their mark on the game. Edge rusher Jonathan Greenard managed three sacks and six total tackles, while linebacker David Reese II also had six tackles, tying for third on the team.
Safety Jeawon Taylor, another fourth-year player, had five tackles.
Though the seniors have run through the tunnel and onto the surface of the Swamp for the final time, their collegiate careers aren’t over. At 10-2, Florida has a good chance at a New Year’s Six Bowl game, depending on the results of Championship Week.
But for now, Hammond and the rest will enjoy the emotional win over the Seminoles.
“You kind of soak it in a little bit, you realize that it's the last time,” he said. “You kind of just want to take every step a little slower than normal, kind of visualize it just a little bit more and just take a deep breath and realize that you're walking off for the last time."
Follow Tyler Nettuno on Twitter @TylerNettuno. Contact him at [email protected]