Gators come through on strategy, smother Razorbacks
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 4:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 6, 2013 at 4:45 p.m.
Under Will Muschamp, the Florida Gators have put a priority on winning the fourth quarter. There also is an emphasis on winning the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half.
Who: No. 17 Florida (4-1) at No. 10 LSU (5-1)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Those vital minutes that bookend halftime were where the Gators established control in their 30-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night in The Swamp.
UF ended the first half with a 75-yard drive in six plays that concluded with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Murphy to wide receiver Solomon Patton with 20 seconds remaining to give the Gators a 17-7 lead.
Then, the Gators opened the second half with a 75-yard drive in seven plays that culminated with another touchdown connection between Murphy and Patton, this one for 38 yards.
“We always talk about the last five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the third quarter from the standpoint of getting out quick and finishing,” Muschamp said on his Sunday television show. “We certainly did that.
“You have to give credit to the offense for going down right before half and getting the score, which is very demoralizing to an opponent. When you give up seven points right before half that really hurts, especially on the road. Then we come out to start the second half very strong offensively.
“Our offense has put a bunch of those (drives) together this year. People don't realize that. It's demoralizing for the opponent when you take it 75 yards and you have that many plays and that much time (3:37) off the clock (to start the second half).”
The key players in those defining drives, of course, were Murphy and Patton.
It was a career performance by Patton, who caught six passes for 124 yards and the two TDs.
“Really proud of him,” Muschamp said. “He's a guy when he gets a step on you you're going to have a hard time catching him. We have a pretty fast secondary. When he gets a step on us we can't catch him.
“He's a guy I'm extremely proud of. It shows when you work hard, good things are going to happen for you.”
Murphy, making only his second career start and first one at home, was efficient managing the offense. He completed 16 of 22 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns. After getting off to a slow start, Murphy completed 13 of his final 15 pass attempts.
“I think his pocket presence really showed last night,” Muschamp said. “Tyler played extremely well. The off-rhythm plays for the quarterback are extremely hard for the defense to play.
“There is no defense for them. You have to cover receivers twice. We've become a very good scramble team with Tyler at quarterback.”
Murphy and Patton were not the only ones to produce momentum-changing plays. Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy's 42-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter was a game changer. It gave the Gators their first lead, 10-7.
“At that point, we weren't playing very well defensively,” Muschamp said. “We got them in a third-down situation, Dante Fowler got some pressure on the quarterback and (Purifoy) made a fantastic play on the ball. I'm just glad none of our guys tackled him going into the end zone.”
The Purifoy's touchdown seemed to turn things around for the defense, which struggled early in the game, giving up 81 yards rushing in the first quarter. The defense stuffed the run (allowing only 30 yards the next three quarters) and dominated the Arkansas offense for most of the remainder of the game.
“You have to give (Arkansas) credit. They did a nice job of blocking and running,” Muschamp said. “But we weren't in our gaps. We didn't keep our head in our gaps. We didn't play very good gap control defense.
“If you're going to play good run defense, you've got to play good gap control defense and you've got to tackle. We had some opportunities to tackle on the perimeter. Our corners need to tackle better.
“That's something we went back and worked on and talked to them about at halftime. Sometimes, we have to play a little smarter in some situations.”
While the Hogs had some early success on the ground, the Florida offense struggled throughout the game to get its running game going. The Gators managed only 115 yards on the ground, and tailback Matt Jones, who rushed for 176 yards against Kentucky the week before, was held to 50 yards on 17 carries.
“We did have a hard time,” Muschamp said. “They were big inside and we had a hard time with some of their movements. We had a hard time getting the ball on the edge.
“But we did what we had to to win the football game. I'm real proud of the drive at the end of the first half and the drive to start the third quarter.”
The Gators, who are 3-0 in the SEC, will now turn their attention to Saturday's game in Baton Rouge against No. 10 LSU (5-1 overall, 2-1 SEC).
“We look forward to going Baton Rouge,” Muschamp said. “They've got a good football team. It's going to take a 60-minute effort, going to take a team effort to get a win in Baton Rouge.
“The last time we were there, we didn't represent the University of Florida very well.” LSU beat UF 41-11 in 2011.
NOTE: The SEC rep who attended Saturday night's game told Florida officials that starting center Jonotthan Harrison will not be suspended from the first half of Saturday's game in Baton Rouge. Harrison was ejected from the Arkansas game in the second half for touching an official. … Florida and Georgia have the best conference marks in the SEC with 10-1 records in the past two seasons. … Murphy's QB rating of 209.4 against Arkansas is the highest for a UF quarterback against an SEC opponent since Rex Grossman had a rating of 235.9 against LSU on Oct. 6, 2001.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.