Florida ran the ball on 3rd & 19 with 11 seconds left for what everyone thought was going to be the last play of the game.
However, despite the fact that several of his players had already gone to the tunnel, Josh Heupel called his final timeout with six seconds remaining.
Everybody who went into the tunnel had to come back out, and Tennessee’s defense trotted on the field for Florida’s 4th & 16 play.
In an attempt to run all the time off of the clock, Florida quarterback Graham Mertz took the snap and ran around in the backfield for a few seconds. As he went to take a knee, Tennessee defensive tackle Omari Thomas made contact with Mertz’ heck and upper-torso area, and many Florida defenders took exception.
The contact Thomas made with Mertz started a fairly sizable fight to end the game, as the game was officially over after Florida’s 4th down play.
In addition to Thomas, Kamal Hadden and Omarr Norman-Lott got in the thick of the commotion, and some hands were thrown.
The fight can be seen below.
Fight breaks out at end of Tennessee-Florida game. Vols DT Omarr Norman-Lott comes out of nowhere and throws a punch.
Stupid way to end this game, all of the last 30 seconds pic.twitter.com/C8SZSB9SJ1
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) September 17, 2023
It’s common knowledge that there’s no love lost between Tennessee and Florida, but Saturday night’s game had been civil for the most part until the fight to end things.
Following the game, Heupel commented on why he chose to take the late timeout even though the game was over for all intents and purposes.
“Timing of when it was,” Heupel said regarding the timeout. “Chance to try and push one into the end zone. Obviously at the end of it, by the time of when it happened, you know you weren’t going to be able to have a full sequence of plays to try and get back into the end zone.”
After a disastrous loss to begin SEC play, the Vols will look to get back on track next weekend when they host a struggling UTSA team in Neyland Stadium.