Gators get special effort

UF finds another way to move ball


Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine blocks a field goal attempt by Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Dudley Field on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 in Nashville, Tenn. Florida defeated Vanderbilt 31-17.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 8:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 8:37 p.m.

Florida has been able to get production from all three phases of the game, and, as a result, it has allowed the Gators to gain sole possession of first place in the SEC Eastern Division and garner recognition as one of the top teams in the country.

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Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine blocks a field goal attempt by Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Dudley Field on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 in Nashville, Tenn. Florida defeated Vanderbilt 31-17.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer

On Saturday night, it was the Florida special teams’ turn to play a key role for the 31-17 win at Vanderbilt.

Florida scored on a two-point conversion, blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt, picked up 54 yards off a fake punt and returned a kickoff 60 yards that led to points. Caleb Sturgis was 3 for 3 on field-goal attempts and Kyle Christy averaged 46.2 yards on five punts.

“D.J. Durkin, our special teams coordinator, does a fantastic job,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said on his Sunday television show. “Our players understand the importance of special teams. And when you are on the road, those are the type of plays that make a difference in the game.”

The work by the special teams turned momentum in Florida’s favor, Muschamp said.

“It’s something we have worked on and we have a couple plays off of that,” Muschamp said of the two-point conversion. “Real pleased with being able to execute that in that situation and create some momentum for our football team.”

With UF holding a slim 11-7 lead, the Gators pulled off a blocked field-goal attempt, and, on the ensuing possession, the 54-yard Solomon Patton run off a fake punt that led to a touchdown and an 18-7 advantage.

“Earl Okine, Sharrif Floyd and Omar Hunter got a great push and were able to get the block there,” Muschamp said. “Loucheiz (Purifoy) scooped it up. Wished he got on the sideline there, but he needs to secure the ball. We don’t need to be lateraling the thing everywhere.

“The fake punt, I felt like we needed a momentum change in the game. It’s something we’ve practiced for a long time. We executed it extremely well. What a great block by Jon Bostic and Frankie Hammond on the edge.”

Then, following a Vanderbilt touchdown that brought the score to 21-14, Andre Debose returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to set up another Sturgis field goal.

“Andre Debose came out with a big kickoff return,” Muschamp said. “It was blocked very well. Very proud to get that momentum swing back.”

Notes: Muschamp did not give an injury update Sunday. The status of the three injured starters on the offensive line will be determined this week. Center Jon Harrison went out with an arm injury on the first offensive series Saturday, left tackle Xavier Nixon has an upper-body injury suffered in the second quarter and left guard James Wilson didn’t make the trip after injuring an eye in Wednesday’s practice.

“We were a little bit of a MASH unit on the offensive line,” Muschamp said. “My hat’s off to D.J. Humphries (tackle), Ian Silberman (guard) and Sam Robey (center) coming in and doing a fantastic job.”

Freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman, who made his first start, and linebacker Michael Taylor left the game with ankle injuries.

Defensive tackle Dominique Easley (knee) and linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring) made the trip, but did not play.

“We need to get those guys back, but proud of the guys that stepped in,” Muschamp said. “We have a motto around here, ‘Man down, man up,’ and we certainly had some guys do that.”

College GameDay will be in Gainesville on Saturday, when UF makes its 35th appearance (which leads the nation) on the ESPN program. It’s the program’s first appearance in Gainesville since Nov. 28, 2009, a 37-10 win over FSU. Florida has already made two appearances on GameDay this season, at Texas A&M and at Tennessee.

Contact Arnold Feliciano at arnold.feliciano@gvillesun.com or at 352-374-5055.

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