Florida football: The top 5 Feleipe Franks moments as a Gator
Saturday night at The Swamp should be a lot of fun.
The Gators returning home to play in front of their adoring fans after vanquishing archrival Georgia in the Cocktail Party.
The Razorbacks, one of the best stories in college football, visiting Gainesville with a team that matches up well with Florida, strength on weakness.
Oh, and you may have heard about the quarterback battle. Kyle Trask, the bona fide Heisman candidate, coming off a performance for the ages in the Cocktail Party, on the Gators’ sideline. Feleipe Franks, the former Florida starter, the guy who beat out Trask in multiple quarterback competitions under multiple coaching staffs, on the Razorbacks’ sideline.
Trask has deserved every inch of print and praise that has come his way in 2020.
Another guy who has deserved praise in 2020? Feleipe Franks.
The senior is a huge reason Arkansas has defied expectations and the toughest schedule in college football to start 3-3. Franks has completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,428 yards and 14 touchdowns, adding 174 yards as a willing runner behind a rebuilt Arkansas offensive line. Franks has been at his best in big moments, whether it was his 3-touchdown 2nd half to lead Arkansas to a win over Tennessee last week, or his massive 318-yard, 4-touchdown performance against a very good Auburn defense that should have resulted in a win but for SEC officials not understanding the rules of football.
If Sam Pittman is ushering in a Razorbacks revival, it’s hard to suggest Franks isn’t an integral building block. Given that and the trajectory of his career, Franks is building a legacy as a program-builder, both at Arkansas and at Florida, where he will return for one final Saturday at The Swamp this weekend.
As much as Trask’s legacy will be attached at the hip to Dan Mullen’s restoration of Florida’s program to national prominence, the truth is Franks deserves a fair share of credit as well.
After all, it was Franks who helped Mullen take a program with a toxic culture coming off a 4-win season to a 10-win New Year’s 6 Bowl win in Year 1. Franks kept the starting gig at Florida until an injury took it away from him, and then he stuck around the program last year to be a tremendous teammate as Trask shined in his absence, leading the Gators to 11 wins and the Orange Bowl.
No one faulted Franks when he elected to transfer to Arkansas in the offseason. It was a chance to let Trask be Trask and let Feleipe be Feleipe, and until COVID-19 hit, there was no real chance their paths would cross. Now they do, 2 program-building quarterbacks poised to leave big legacies at SEC institutions.
For now, it’s fun to look back at Franks’ career at Florida and some of the moments that he left behind before leaving for good.
Here are Franks’ top 5 moments as a Gator ahead of his return to The Swamp.
5. Franks and the Gators take back The Swamp, best Joe Burrow (2018)
SDS’s Connor O’Gara took the game in from press row and remembered the building shaking to the rafters late, when Brad Stewart’s pick-6 of Joe Burrow sealed LSU’s fate and gave Florida their first win over a top-5 team since 2015. O’Gara wrote afterwards that Mullen had “taken back The Swamp” with that win, and while Florida wouldn’t begin their current 10-game home winning streak until later that season, it’s hard to argue that wasn’t where it all began for Mullen.
Franks was steady in that game, accounting for 203 yards of offense and a touchdown and making just enough big throws to keep the LSU defense off-balance. Franks’ signature moment in the game, believe it or not, was probably this catch on a trick play that helped set up what proved to be the winning score.
Florida Gators Feleipe Franks trick play catch vs LSU 10/6/18 pic.twitter.com/152wzlHqs7
— Andrew Arrington (@aa18in2009) October 6, 2018
4. Franks ‘shushes’ the crowd — South Carolina comeback (2018)
Franks nearly lost his starting job to Trask in 2018 after a miserable performance in a home loss to Missouri caused Mullen to open up the quarterback competition again late in the season. The competition was short-lived, as Trask injured his foot and was lost for the season. Given a reprieve, Franks played the best game of his career against Will Muschamp and South Carolina. It just took 3 quarters for him to get going.
“Franks Shushes Home Crowd”
– ESPN, 2018 pic.twitter.com/Og8dwTk7Up
— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) November 11, 2018
With Florida trailing 31-14 late in the 3rd quarter, Franks took over. The junior led the Gators on 3 consecutive scoring drives to take the lead, and when he plunged into the end zone to give Florida a 35-31 edge late, he shushed a Gators crowd that had booed him earlier that month.
Some Gators thought it was bad form. But Franks’ teammates loved it. Trevon Grimes, in particular, praised Franks’ decision. “It shows his passion for winning and for his program,” Grimes said after the win. “He suffered so much criticism. He’s human and he made mistakes and he still has to go play in front of 80,000 demanding fans. He’s prideful. I loved the celebration because that’s my quarterback.”
Florida loved the win even more.
3. Florida snaps the FSU losing streak (2018)
It seems like a distant memory to Gators fans now, but the truth is that Florida spent most the 2010s playing whipping boy to in-state rival Florida State. The Seminoles won 5 consecutive contests against the Gators from 2013-17, the longest run of ‘Noles wins in the history of the rivalry.
All that changed in 2018, largely thanks to the right arm of Franks.
The ‘Noles entered the game with a top-10 defense nationally, but Franks had his way all afternoon, torching FSU for 254 yards passing, 46 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, including this laser to the aforementioned Grimes.
.@18franks delivers a money touchdown to Trevon Grimes and sends a message to Noles' fans!
— Luke Hetrick (@LHSportsTV) November 25, 2018
The Gators routed FSU 41-14 in Tallahassee, securing a New Year’s 6 bowl berth in the process.
2. Peach Bowl MVP (2018)
A common refrain among Gators fans and national writers alike is, What it was about Franks that kept him ahead of Trask for so many years? (You know, aside from the prototypical NFL size and rocket arm.)
The best example of how and why likely came in the 2018 Peach Bowl in Atlanta, where Franks secured MVP honors in routing a very good Michigan team 41-15.
Franks did it all that afternoon, throwing for 173 yards and a touchdown and taking what a top-5 Michigan defense gave him in the passing game while adding 74 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He also showed his growth as a thinker, checking to this quarterback draw to give the Gators the lead in the 1st half:
5️⃣ vs. 5️⃣ in the box made this one easy for Feleipe Franks
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) December 29, 2018
It was the type of play Franks simply would not have made as a freshman, but one that became possible as he matured and improved under Mullen. As Franks grew, so did the Gators program.
1. The ‘Heave to Cleve’ to beat Tennessee (2017)
At the time, I dubbed the pass “the Heave to Cleve”, wondering if it would change the trajectory of a season that started so poorly in Arlington against Michigan.
It didn’t, but it is still the most memorable moment of Franks’ tenure at Florida.
It should be noted that this football travels almost 70 yards in the air on a rope. Absurd.
GATORS WIN ON A HAIL MARY!!!!!!!!
Franks to Cleveland for the TD
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 16, 2017
For Gators fans, as bad as 2017 was, they still beat Tennessee, thanks to Feleipe’s big right arm.