Gators again find a way
Published: Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 6:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 7:32 p.m.
Never in the history of Florida football has a team celebrated so mightily a win over a school that didn't even bring a band to The Swamp.
This was supposed to be a breather, a chance to get the offense going, a respite after the grueling SEC schedule.
Instead, it turned into what may have been the best finish in Florida football history. Sub in an SEC opponent or FSU, and you'd probably feel that way today.
Instead, you don't know what to think.
You're numb to it by now, this team that continues to underachieve in production and overachieve in results. A game that looked more lost than a stripper in a calculus class was somehow won.
Instead of an embarrassing defeat that would have resounded throughout the nation, Florida turned in the “Miracle on Gale Lemerand.”
“We can make it interesting,” Will Muschamp said when it was over.
I'm not sure how interesting it was to anyone wearing orange and blue for most of the day Saturday. The offense struggled again (please, tell me you were not surprised), and the Gators let another team hang around until, whoops, disaster struck.
A blocked punt gave Louisiana-Lafayette a lead with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. And Florida's quarterback was on the bench with his ankle swollen like Donald Trump's ego. And the Gators were looking like they'd be the second UF team in 24 hours not to play a second half.
“It was on the brink,” Muschamp said.
That it was. A loss would not have ruined all the good this team had done this year, but it would have been like splashing mustard on a cashmere sweater.
Then, something amazing happened. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who had done nothing all year by coaches' choice and little in relief in this game, hit a big pass to Jordan Reed and then a tying touchdown to Quinton Dunbar.
When Louisiana tried to run out regulation, it looked like we were heading to overtime. Except Muschamp called a timeout with 13 seconds left. He made sure the Gators were looking for a fake. He made sure returner Pop Saunders was under orders to treat a successful punt like a porcupine with a machine gun and run away from it.
Then he called for D.J. Durkin's best punt block.
Sure enough, Loucheiz Purifoy stuck a hand out and deflected the kick.
“I didn't want to swat at it because I could miss it,” Purifoy said.
And as the ball fluttered in the air, Muschamp's mind raced. A thousand things came into his head in a couple of seconds. He looked at the clock. We can win this with a field goal, he thought. But when the ball came down to Jelani Jenkins and there was nobody in front of him, the field goal would not be necessary.
“I watched the touchdown on the Jumbotron,” Muschamp said.
The team that makes its fans scratch their heads so much you're all going bald had found a way to win for the ninth time. This was the most improbable win of an improbable season.
And the biggest play was turned in by a guy who has made his share this season.
Before this season began, I was in Pensacola speaking to a Gator Club and I met Purifoy's mother. She is a treat and we began to talk about the fact Purifoy wears No. 15. She told me that he didn't want the number because of the Tim Tebow legacy, but the coaches talked him into it.
On Saturday, I asked him about that and he admitted he wasn't thrilled to take the number of the legendary quarterback.
“It's just a number,” he said. “And I am going to keep it.”
Just like Florida isn't giving back Saturday's victory.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.