Posted: 10:46 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013
The Florida Gators got off to a slow start yet another slow start his year, but this time they had plenty of time to recover against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Gators, who lead the country in rush defense, giving up just over 53 yards-per-game allowed nearly 100 yards rushing to the Razorbacks who ended the opening quarter with a 7-0 lead over the Gators.
Then reality for the Razorbacks set in. Including a very questionable call on a muffed punt in which the Razorbacks where probably given the short end of the stick, but I'm not so sure. That play will be talked about and that's probably unfair, but it's just one of those "too close to call, could go either way" kind of things.
But as it was explained later, even though Purifoy struggled to maintain the catch the bobble is still part of the fair catch and he can't be touched until the ball hits the ground.
After a field goal by backup kicker Brad Phillips, who replaced starter Austin Hardin after Hardin's first attempt was blocked earlier in the game, Loucheiz Purifoy showed why he's an All-SEC performer by returning a pick-six for a touchdown and the Gators rolled into the half from there.
Solomon Patton took a Tyler Murphy pass for a 51-yard touchdown right before the half to put the Gators up ten, 17-7 on a nice play in which he outran the entire Razorback secondary for a surprise touchdown when it appeared the Gators were settling for a field goal right before the half.
Murphy began the second half after going 8-for-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown in the first half after continuing his solid play since replacing the injured Jeff Driskel during the Tennessee game. About the only thing not working in the first half for the Gators were the running game as both Mack Brown Matt Jones struggled to get things going from the opening kickoff.
To begin the second half much of the same things continued. The defense stepped up in a big way and Patton yet again destroyed the Razorback defense for yet another long touchdown. Though things got interesting when starting center Jonathan Harrison was ejected for a penalty which involved contact with an official.
On a bright note though, before Harrison's penalty the Gators weren't penalized at all in the game up to that point. So at least there is progress in that regard.
After a field goal by the Razorbacks and a failed surprise onside kick attempt, the Gators began to impose their will (sort of) by going to their bread and butter running of the football. Brown, Jones and Murphy all combined for runs to put the game away and Patton continued his solid rise in the receiving game by gaining an important reception to keep a drive going.
Things got worse for the Razorbacks at the start of the fourth quarter when Dante Fowler Jr., who was flagged for a late hit on the play, knocked out starting quarterback Brandon Allen who left holding his chest/hand. Allen's injury was like the seventh or eight Razorback to miss time during the game for an injury suffered during the game.
A nice punt return by Trey Burton pretty much sealed the game with a little more than ten minutes remaining. The Gators then tried to run the ball to eat clock and finish the game off, but were unable to due to a bad spot on a Murphy slide (please note that I'm not talking about the first slide, but the second) and Brown's inability to pick up a first down on a 3rd and 1.
Following that drive, a bad offsides penalty canceled out a nice sack and forced fumble by Fowler Jr. who has stepped up in a big way since the loss of Dominique Easley. For all intents and purposes though, the game was over after that failed drive by the Razorbacks.
A late touchdown reception on a shovel pass by Valdez Showers was the icing the cake.
Murphy finished another strong performance by going 16-for-22 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Two of his touchdown passes were to Patton, while the late Showers' one was his third and final. Patton ended his day with six receptions for 124 yards and the two mentioned touchdowns.
Burton and Quinton Dunbar combined for six catches and just about 100 yards in another solid performance by the two of them. A highlight in the receiving game was Tevin Westbrook's catch in the 2nd quarter. Westbrook's catch was just the second catch by a tight end all season.
In the running game, Jones finished with 17 carries for 50 yards while Brown finished with 11 carries for 39 yards. Murphy added seven carries for just 15 yards in a game in which he had no designed runs that were first options. But, for the first time that I can remember the Gators failed to find the endzone on the ground.
All in all though, a very solid performance for the Gators in which they had what I would call their first complete game of the season. Beating the Razorbacks soundly is one thing though and with LSU looming large it was good to see if nothing else by a major confidence boost.