Full-field hucks, big skying grabs, and layout blocks are some of what you might expect in a rematch of last year’s College Championship Final. Team misconduct fouls, player misconduct fouls, and score controversies? Not so much.
From fundamentals to fireworks, this game had it all.
When Carleton plays Florida, everyone knows their match up. Poaches and zones might shake someone off balance for a point or two, but in general, these teams are ready to line up man-to-man across the line and attempt to outplay each other.
As such, the first few points went off without a hitch for either offense. A Cole Sullivan deep grab in traffic was followed Grant Linsdley ripping one down followed by Nathan Sage skying followed by Carleton scoring on another huck. You get the picture.
On serve and up, 4-3, the Gators started to see the benefits of their strong effort to push Linsdley deep rather than allow him to catch CUT’s first pass underneath. Though not uncomfortable with going to their second option, Carleton’s rhythm was thrown off enough for Florida to capitalize, taking the first break and making the score 5-3. Not long after, however, Carleton would break back after a Florida misfire and another Lindsley goal, bringing the score to 7-6, Florida. The teams would trade to half.
At half, something gave me the feeling that the game’s crucial break would come closer to the second half’s beginning than at the end. On that note, Florida’s Travis Catron made perhaps the play of the game when, with the score at 8-8, he saved a floating Florida dump pass twenty yards outside of his own endzone by jumping and extending over CUT’s Christian Foster. Florida would go on to score and on the next point, force a turn, call a time out, and earn the crucial break.
What happened next started a chain of events that made the finish to College Easterns the wildest that I have seen. Knowing that they could bust the game open with another score, Florida stacked its defensive line with experienced starters. The pulled downwind, and after Carleton worked the disc the length of the field, played stingy endzone defense that forced CUT to dump and swing continuously. Finally, Lindsley was unable to bring in a break attempt from Jonah Herscu, and Florida had the disc. After the turn, Cole Sullivan immediately picked the disc up and jacked a full-field flick that Florida brought in just outside of the endzone and the receiver called a time out. Given Florida’s endzone efficiency, things did not look good for Carleton.
Moments later, however, observers Troy Revell and Rob Sayre-McCord assessed Florida its third Team Misconduct Foul because the team’s coach (someone I did not recognize) had come out onto the field during play. Florida’s third TMF, the disc was walked back to the Gator endzone (the reverse brick) and the team was told that it had lost its time out.
Understandably, Florida was not happy, and they let the observers know it. Despite a warning that continuing to talk would result in another TMF, Sullivan voiced his opinion once again and received a Player Misconduct Foul.
On the subsequent play, the disc was dumped to Sullivan and a disputed foul call resulted in a Florida turnover. Two throws later, CUT’s Justin Norden got open with Sullivan in hot pursuit. Fired up by the prior sixty seconds, Sullivan laid out in an attempt to make the block, and after Justin had caught the disc, the two hit the ground. Hard.
While the players did not erupt and the crowd’s reaction was somewhat minimal, it was clear that Sullivan had bid somewhat late for a disc that he did not have much of a shot at touching. He was assessed another PMF, kicking him out of the game and off the premises for the remainder of the half and for the next half that his team would play.
With Sullivan out, Florida could have crumbled. Instead, Alex Hill, who had previously left the game with what is almost surely a broken nose, re-entered, and the Gators kept their cool. While Carleton scored the upwind point to make the score 10-9, the Gators held on for their next two offensive points. Despite fantastic play from captain Alex Evangelides that included multiple skys, a layout block, and a gorgeous downwind huck, CUT seemed frantic.
When the hard cap went on, the game’s final controversy played out: while Carleton players thought the score was 11-11 and Florida thought it to be 11-10 in their favor, the observers had 12-10, Florida. Florida would score the next point to win, but it is unclear whether or not they won 12-11, 13-11, or 13-10. From my own notes, I believe that they won 12-11, but it is possible that I missed something. Either way, it was nice that Florida scored to win so that the rightful team was named the victor either way. Also, it was a reminder that ultimate needs score boards.
Moving forward, I think this may lock up a 1 seed for Florida at Nationals. On Carleton’s side, they seem like the most poised, down-to-business team in the country every time they’re not lined up against the Gators. There is a lot of ultimate to be played until then, but a Florida-Carleton rematch in Boulder would certainly be entertaining.