Dooley: Enjoy 3-0 SEC run
Published: Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 12:44 a.m.
It was supposed to be a knockdown, drag-out fight between two teams that wanted to get physical and then get really physical and then beat each other up. But Florida found a way to shut down the Arkansas running attack Saturday night.
They got ahead.
They got the lead and then they added to it, and then they made that one drive they had to have to make Arkansas a one-dimensional team.
Will Muschamp talked after the game about how the Gators started out the game by missing their assignments and getting out of their gaps. But the really important thing that happened in this game was that first drive of the second half.
It made it 24-7 and Arkansas quit trying to run the ball. The team that has made a living out of ground and pound suddenly played like it was Air Coryell. (For those of you under 30, they threw the ball a lot in San Diego back in the day.)
The Razorbacks only ran the ball seven times the rest of the game. It felt a bit like a panic move.
“The game changed a little bit and they had to throw the ball a little more,” Muschamp said.
For Florida, the game started with a deficit and ended with a 20-point win, and there is nothing shabby about that.
The 30-10 win makes them 3-0 in the SEC heading into big-boy football. I said before these last three games that Florida needed to win them to set up the rest of their season, and while there were times when boos cascaded down from the upper levels of The Swamp when the fourth-quarter play-calling got conservative, Florida won these three games by a combined 85-34.
The stadium was electric at the start, but things got a little dicey when the Gators couldn't take advantage of a turnover and had Austin Hardin's line-drive field goal blocked. The Razorbacks went right down the field in nine plays, and you could feel the uneasiness in the stands.
It was what Florida fans feared heading into this game, an eight-play drive with 39 rushing yards. Arkansas running back Alex Collins looked like the most energetic guy on the field.
But that energy switched jerseys midway through the second quarter. Louchiez Purifoy's 42-yard interception return was one of those momentum-changers that had the orange and blue fans standing on their heads.
“The top came off the place when that happened,” Muschamp said.
The most amazing thing about Purifoy's touchdown wasn't that it was an awful throw or that it was Purifoy's first career interception. It was that no Florida player tackled Purifoy from behind.
And this was a game where Florida needed to play from ahead. Once they got the lead, it changed everything. And when Solomon Patton made two big-time plays to score from 51 and 38 yards out on plays that weren't supposed to go that far, Florida was exactly where it needed to be.
As a result, the roughing-the-passer penalties and the ejection of Jon Harrison and the two wasted trips into Arkansas territory didn't ruin a beautiful night for the mighty Gators.
There were eight second-half penalties, and that's not good. There were 10 plays in the game for Florida where yardage was lost, and that was troubling.
But the bottom line is that Florida shook off its post-Miami haze to win three games where it was the better team. As we know, being the better team doesn't always mean a victory. While the white noise from Saturday night will turn into Sunday morning quarterbacking, this might be a good time for the Gator Nation to sit back and look at what these Gators have accomplished.
They have had 12 straight games holding SEC opponents to 20 points or fewer. They have won 10 of their last 11 SEC games. They are 15-3 over the last two seasons.
You want sex appeal, date a Kardashian. This is a team built on toughness and grit and on Saturday night, the tougher team made the team that wanted to be tougher flinch.
This season will be defined by what happens next. But try to enjoy this modest three-game winning streak against three coaches who are new to the conference. They probably think a lot of what Florida has been able to do.
Maybe you should, too.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.