Gators cage Razorbacks

Patton, Purifoy shine for UF


Florida Gators defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy (15) celebrates with Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Arkansas 30-10. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 1:01 a.m.

Just a little over a week ago, the Florida Gators were left devastated by the loss of two of their best players, quarterback Jeff Driskel and defensive tackle Dominique Easley, to season-ending injuries.

Facts

Three things

1. The Gators have found a playmaker in the passing game. Senior speedster Solomon Patton turned two intermediate receptions into touchdown plays of 51 and 38 yards to spark the offense.

2. In only his second career start, quarterback Tyler Murphy had a big night, completing 16 of 22 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

3. After giving up a first-quarter touchdown, the Florida defense was in control the rest of the way. It was the 13th consecutive game in which the Gators have held an SEC opponent to 21 points or less.

— Robbie Andreu

At that point, it was a team that could do one of two things: feel sorry for itself and possibly fragment, or come together. The Gators apparently decided to come together.

For the second Saturday in a row, the No. 18 Gators put together another strong team performance to beat an SEC opponent, this time taking down Arkansas 30-10 before 90,043 in The Swamp. The victory moves UF to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the SEC, while the Razorbacks fall to 3-3 and 0-2.

The Gators won with playmaking performances on offense by quarterback Tyler Murphy and wide receiver Solomon Patton.

They won with a strong overall defensive effort that featured a game-changing interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.

And they sealed the deal with the help of a Purifoy punt return that set up UF's final TD in the fourth quarter.

“I'm excited,” Murphy said. “It was a big home win, great atmosphere, night game in The Swamp. It doesn't get much better than that. The crowd did a great job helping out our defense.”

In only his second career start, Murphy came up big, completing 16 of 22 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those TD passes went to senior wide receiver Solomon Patton for 51 and 38 yards. The 51-yard catch-and-run came in the closing seconds of the first half to put the Gators in command, 17-7.

“I'm getting a lot more comfortable,” Murphy said. “I've just got to keep getting better, watching film and evaluating myself so I can quicken up my reads and make decisions a lot faster.

“The game is definitely slowing down. I thought we had a good game plan. Our coaches did a good job getting us in the right plays.”

Since taking over for Driskel in the first half of the Tennessee game, Murphy has efficiently managed the Florida offense. He's been more productive each game out.

“It's about converting third downs. It's about completing passes, about getting our offense in and out of the right runs, taking the ball to the right spot, moving your team,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “That's what Tyler is doing.”

For the third game in a row, Murphy made some critical plays with his legs, converting some big first downs. He also was efficient spreading the ball around to his receivers and generating a downfield passing game.

His go-to guy was Patton, who has emerged as UF's biggest offensive playmaker after being a role player (used mostly on speed sweeps and end-arounds) last season.

“When the opportunity is there to be a player, your urgency picks up,” Muschamp said. “I saw that with Solomon in the spring. Everyone told me he showed it in the summer. In camp, I saw it. He was a refined route runner.

“We told him, 'We need you to be a guy who can help us in the game.' He's having a special season. No question, he's a guy that if he gets a step, it's hard to catch him. He's catching the ball extremely well. I can't say enough about him.”

The Razorbacks could not catch Patton on his 51-yard scoring play with 20 seconds left in the half. They had no chance to run him down again in the third quarter he caught a 15-yard Murphy pass on a hitch pattern and turned it into a 38-yard sprint to the end zone that put the Gators up 24-7.

“I'm glad he's on our team,” Murphy said. “Even though he's small, he's quick and hard to tackle. He's a tough guy. We're going to continue to find ways to get him and the other guys the ball so they can make plays.”

Purifoy is another Gator who would not be caught Saturday night.

Purifoy gave the Gators their first lead (and great momentum) when he intercepted a Brandon Allen pass in the flat and sprinted 42 yards for a touchdown to put UF on top 10-7 midway through the second quarter.

It was a game-changing play after the Gators had struggled through the first quarter and found themselves down 7-0.

Arkansas took the surprising early lead with a four-yard run by tailback Jonathan Williams that culminated a 65-yard drive.

After Purifoy's big play, the defense, ranked No. 1 in the SEC, was in command for the rest of the game, giving up only a 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter.

It was the 13th SEC game in a row that the Gators have held the opposition to 21 points or less.

The defense sacked Williams twice and prevented the Razorbacks from getting into any kind of rhythm over the final three quarters. The Gators held Arkansas to 111 yards rushing and 275 total yards.

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