No. 18 Florida handles Arkansas 30-10
Posted at: 10/05/2013 9:05 PM
By MARK LONG
(AP) GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Solomon Patton turned two short receptions into touchdowns, helping No. 18 Florida beat Arkansas 30-10 Saturday night.
The 5-foot-9 senior nicknamed "Solo" was pretty close to being a one-man show in the Swamp.
Patton finished with six catches for a career-high 124 yards. He also ran for a first down. But his longest gains went the distance and were key to Florida (4-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) winning its ninth consecutive game in the series and 10th in a row at home.
Tyler Murphy, making his first start at Florida Field, completed 16 of 22 passes for 240 yards and three scores _ another efficient and effective outing from a fourth-year junior who somehow couldn’t get on the field the last three years.
The Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2) ran the ball well early _ against the league’s best defense _ but fell behind on Loucheiz Purifoy’s interception return in the second quarter for a touchdown and faded from there.
Purifoy had a sack and forced fumble in the first quarter, extending Florida’s streak with a takeaway to 16 games. The Gators also have intercepted a pass in eight straight games.
Arkansas looked sharp for a bit, gashing the Gators on the ground and taking a 7-0 lead on Jonathan Williams’ nifty, cutback run. Williams started left, slammed into defensive end Ronald Powell, bounced out of the would-be tackle and then headed the other direction. He picked up a block from quarterback Brandon Allen and pretty much walked into the end zone for a 4-yard score.
But it was ended up being one of the few bright spots for Arkansas, which hasn’t beaten Florida since 1982 _ a decade before the Razorbacks entered the SEC.
Things might be worse for the Razorbacks, too. Starting cornerback Will Hines injured his right arm and left the field on a cart, and starting center Travis Swanson also left the game.
Florida had one minor issue: center Jon Harrison was ejected for apparently making contact with an official. But he won’t miss next week’s game at LSU.
Little else went wrong for the Gators.
Patton surely added to his highlight reel.
He got wide open on a 3rd-and-12 play with about 30 seconds to play in the first half, spun away from a defender and outran everyone else for a score that made it 17-7. He was equally elusive to start the third quarter. He took a short pass from Murphy, broke a tackle and scampered for a 38-yard score. His fourth touchdown of the season made it 24-7.
Florida has lacked offensive playmakers, especially at receiver, for years. But Patton, a speedy kid recruited to Gainesville by former coach Urban Meyer, is starting to look like a smaller version of Percy Harvin.
Coach Will Muschamp had a conversation with Patton in the offseason, asking him whether he wanted to continue to be someone used mostly on jet sweeps or put in the work to become an every-down guy. Patton used that as motivation to get better, and it’s starting to pay off.
He caught six passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against Miami last month and then added 73 yards and a score the following week against Tennessee. On Saturday, in the first night game in the Swamp in nearly two years, he really showed up.
It was a welcome surprise for the Gators.
Murphy has been solid in all three games since replacing injured starter Jeff Driskel. His 9-yard shovel pass to Valdez Showers in the fourth quarter sent many of the Florida faithful home early and happy.
Florida’s defense was its typical dominant self. Although the unit allowed a season-high 121 yards rushing, most of those came in the first half.
Muschamp blamed a few long runs on gap control, something Florida seemed fix at halftime.
Williams ran eight times for 32 yards. Alex Collins added 54 yards on 13 carries.
Allen completed 17 of 41 passes for 164 yards, with an interception. Allen briefly left the game after a roughing-the-passer penalty against defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
Allen’s bigger problem was the Pick Six in the second quarter. Purifoy broke on the poorly thrown ball, which was intended for Keon Hatcher, and took it 42 yards the other way.
Purifoy also was involved in another game-changing play. He called for a fair catch on a punt return and bobbled the ball. Arkansas seemed to come up with the fumble, but officials ruled that linebacker Austin Jones interfered with the catch.
The SEC backed up the call, saying the return man has the right to be unimpeded until the ball hits the ground. Since Purifoy’s bobble was still part of the fair catch, he could not be touched until the ball hit the ground.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)