“99 Yards, Kelsey Finch!””

In 1977, with the return of Tennessee legend John Majors to the Vol sideline as head coach, Vol fans were looking for any ray of excitement, anything that might give hope in what would turn out to be a 4-7 season.

The most exciting play of that 1977 season, excluding any one of the six TDs the Vols scored in a 42-7 win over Vanderbilt, came in Gainesville, Fla., of all places. It was Oct. 27. The Vols would lose the game 27-17, but a tailback from Sheffield, Ala., etched his name into the history books.

The Vols were backed up to their goal at the south end of Florida Field, third-and-10 at the Vol 1. Florida fans were on their feet, ready for the kill.

It was an innocent-looking off-tackle play designed to buy yardage for Vol punter Craig Colquitt. Tailback Kelsey Finch turned the play into one for the record books, one for the memory banks, 99 yards for the score. It was the second time in six years that the Vols had gone 99 yards for a score against the Gators, once to each end of the field.

“We were trying to set it up where we could punt the ball,” Finch said. “We had an off-tackle play called. As I hit the hole, there was nobody there. I cut to the sidelines and remember Roland James hollering, ‘They’re going to catch you.’ I remember running for my life. It was an exciting moment.”

Exciting it was. For Vol fans who were there, there is the still-fresh memory of a Florida booster who roamed the stands leading cheers.

When the play started, one of them recalled that, “He was yelling, ‘Hold that line.’ When Finch finished his run, it was, ‘Block that kick.’”

Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013