Under the lights in The Swamp, it seemed like the Florida Gators had a dim bulb in the beginning of their 30-10 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday night. The visitors made themselves at home and took it to the Gators, racking up 95 rushing yards on 14 carries and 136 yards of offense in the first 21:16 of the game. The Razorbacks ran for more yards in that short period of time than any team had gained in an entire game against the Gators this season and it came with a no frills, no trickeration or window dressing approach. The Razorbacks simply owned the line of scrimmage and drove the ball down the field to take a seven-point lead.
When Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen dropped back to throw a simple out route to Keon Hatcher with 8:44, the entire tenor of the game changed in an instant. Loucheiz Purifoy jumped the route, intercepted the pass and sprinted 42 yards untouched to put Florida in the lead 10-7, sending the 90,043 in attendance into a tizzy and providing the shot in the arm the home team needed.
“Just make a play on it, just catch it and run; that’s pretty much it,” Purifoy said of his mindset as the ball came towards him. “The coverage we were in, I got inside hip so I could stay outside of him. I just played outside and I jumped it. He still threw it, so I made a play.”
From that point on, Florida’s defense looked like the one fans and media alike have grown accustomed to seeing this season.
After the pick-six, the Gators held Arkansas to a mere 16 rushing yards and three points the rest of the game and with Florida’s offense beginning to assert itself, the Razorbacks were forced to rely on Allen’s arm to dig out of the hole , a task he wasn’t prepared for. In the final three quarters of the game, Allen was 14-34 passing for 123 yards, finishing the night 17-41 for 164 yards.
“We weren’t happy about [Arkansas running the ball effectively in the early going] … that’s not us,” linebacker Mike Taylor said. “We don’t give up yards. We knew that we had to come out and establish ourselves as the defense that we are.”
The offense also rose to the occasion, scoring twice in its next three drives including a 51-yard pass at the end of the first half and a 38-yard pass on the opening series of the second half, each capping off 75 yard drives. Both scoring passes were to Solomon Patton, who head coach Will Muschamp called a refined route runner post game.
“It was a great feeling to be able to perform like that in front of all the fans,” Patton said. “We haven’t had a night game in two years so it was great to be able to perform like that in front of everyone.”
The 5-9, 170-pound receiver from Mobile, Alabama, who Muschamp told in jest to stand up when meeting with reporters post game for fear he wouldn’t be seen, stood tall on the field Saturday night with six receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’m happy [Solomon’s] on our team, and not on the other team,” quarterback Tyler Murphy said. “Even though he’s small, he’s so quick and hard to tackle. He has good hands and he just knows how to find the open spots and it’s tough for guys to tackle him.”
The Gators only had 32:22 in total time of possession and actually held the ball for less time than an opponent for the first quarter of the Arkansas game, the only time that’s happened in any quarter all season.
It was a different kind of victory, at a different time of day. Florida needed to wakeup at some point, and Loucheiz Purifoy was the jolt of caffeine they received.
“He’s a momentum changer, that’s what he is,” defensive back Jaylen Watkins said.
Once Florida got the momentum in their favor, the Gators put any Razorback hopes of pulling an upset straight to bed.