GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The last time the world saw Gators tight end Jordan Reed catch a pass in the middle of the field and race toward the end zone in the game’s final moments, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones knocked the ball loose and Georgia recovered.
The play sealed the Bulldogs’ win over the then-unbeaten Gators two weeks ago in Jacksonville and left Reed in tears on the sideline and Florida’s bid to win the SEC East much more treacherous. Fast forward to late in the fourth quarter Saturday and the Gators trailing Louisiana by a touchdown.
Facing a critical third-and-3 at Louisiana’s 42, quarterback Jacoby Brissett took a shotgun snap and looked down field. There was Reed, running free down the middle of the field.
Brissett’s 39-yard pass to Reed, who after catching the ball gained several more yards before being tackled at the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 3-yard line, set up Florida’s tying score.
“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss him,’’ Brissett said. “I kind of feel I underthrew him and that’s what slowed him down. He made it easy for us to score.”
The play provided Reed, Florida’s top receiving threat, a measure of redemption following his fumble in Jacksonville that spoiled a chance for the Gators to score a touchdown and potential game-tying two- point conversion against the Bulldogs.
Reed led the Gators with five catches for 85 yard in Saturday’s 27-20 victory over Louisiana.
His final catch is the one he’ll remember most.
“It feels a lot different,’’ Reed said. “[Two weeks ago] I lost the game for us and this week I made a play to help us win.”
A junior from New London, Conn., the soft-spoken Reed took the loss to Georgia hard despite his coaches and teammates telling him that one play didn’t cost the Gators a chance to finish undefeated in the SEC and clinch the East title by beating Georgia.
There were no tears on Saturday, just the same soft tone that he usually speaks in and a baseball cap pulled lower over his head as he talked to a small group of reporters.
“It means a lot to help the team out,’’ Reed said. “You never want to cost your team a chance to win a game.”
On the play after Reed’s catch Saturday, Brissett hit Quinton Dunbar for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
The Gators then tied the game with the extra-point and won on Jelani Jenkins’ 36-yard touchdown return on a blocked punt with two seconds left in the game.
Reed’s catch was the Gators’ longest play of the game.
“We were working on the coverage they had,’’ Reed said of the Tampa 2 defense that Louisiana used to in the play, leaving Reed matched against a middle linebacker. “Coach Pease made a great call there on that play and Jacoby made a great pre-snap read. I saw the field wide open and just got open.
“It’s a great feeling. I held onto it this time. I’m glad I could redeem myself.”
Reed’s size and athleticism make him a constant mismatch for opposing defenses and the Gators have relied heavily on him all season with a lack of playmakers on the outside. Reed’s five receptions Saturday matched his season high and his 85 yards set a new season high.
He leads the Gators with a career-high 38 catches for 456 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s a big-time player for us,’’ defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “We always know we can count him and he showed that with that catch and a lot of other ones he has made for us.”