The end of Saturday night’s game between Tennessee and Florida featured some fistfights, and as a result, the SEC imposed multiple suspensions.
The conference office announced Monday that three Florida players and one Tennessee player will be suspended for the first half of their upcoming games. For Florida, offensive linemen Damieon George and Micah Mazccua and tight end Dante Zanders will be suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game against Charlotte in Gainesville. On the Tennessee side, defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott is suspended for the first half of the Vols’ home game against UTSA.
The suspensions, which were assessed after a video review by the conference office, stem from an altercation that occurred in the final seconds of Florida’s 29-16 victory in The Swamp.
Florida had control of the game and was trying to play out the final seconds when Tennessee coach Josh Heupel called a timeout with nine seconds left with Florida trailing by a fourth. Even with a two-goal deficit, Heupel said after the game that he hoped to get the ball back one more time and “make a shot in the end zone.”
Florida kept its offense on the field and snapped the ball to Graham Mertz. Mertz didn’t immediately take a knee as he tried to run the final seconds off the clock in regulation, leading to a hit from Tennessee’s Omari Thomas as Mertz went to the turf.
From that moment on things became restless and several punches were thrown. There were also several flags on the line, including a targeting of Thomas. The SEC said the four players who received suspensions engaged in “egregious, unsportsmanlike actions.”
“That sequence there, we’re trying to get the ball back,” Heupel said. “We’re trying to get a shot in the end zone. I don’t know if you have enough time for an onside shot and maybe get it and get a shot back. But you try to finish and compete.” the right way. [Mertz] dances around. Do you want the targeting? Obviously not. But the man is dancing around, so you have to tackle him too. Do we want to be calm in that situation and in all situations? Absolute.”
Tennessee fell from number 11 to number 23 in the rankings with the loss. Florida, previously unranked, is now ranked No. 25. Both teams are 2-1 this year.