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Florida handles Arkansas 30-10

The SportsXchange

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Solomon Patton had never caught a touchdown pass in his career before this season. Florida's senior receiver now has four in five games -- including 51-and 38-yard scores in Saturday's 30-10 win over Arkansas.

Loucheiz Purifoy didn't have an interception in his first two years as a Gator. He took care of that, as well, by returning his first pick 42 yards for a touchdown to put Florida ahead for good.

Now Florida can prepare for a huge game at LSU next weekend that is a virtual must-win if the Gators are to stay close in the SEC East.

Florida center Jon Harrison was ejected in the third quarter when he appeared to turn and say something to an official, who flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct. Harrison was replaced at center by Kyle Koehne, a senior with a wealth of experience on the line.

SEC official Greg Sankey said Harrison will not face further suspension for next week's LSU game.

As strong as Florida (4-1 overall, 3-0 in SEC play) looked from the third quarter on, shutting down a Razorbacks running game that ranks among the conference's best, it didn't start that way. The Hogs (3-3, 0-2) ran at will at the outset, but the Gators shut down their fifth straight opponent in the second and third quarters -- giving up a 30-yard field goal to Zach Hocker but still have not allowed a touchdown in the middle quarters all season.

Florida has now outscored opponents 72-12 in the second and third quarters combined this year.

Tyler Murphy finished 16-of-22 passing for 240 and three touchdowns. Matt Jones had 17 rushes for 50 yards. It was the Gators' second-best offensive showing all season.

"(Murphy) did a fantastic job in managing our team ... I don't know where that became a bad word in the coaching profession," Gators coach Will Muschamp said.

Murphy's three touchdown passes were the most by a Florida quarterback since Jeff Driskel had four against South Carolina last October.

As much as Arkansas dominated the game on the ground in the first 30 minutes, Purifoy and Patton had almost as big an impact on just two plays.

Arkansas took the early lead by doing something no one else had been able to do against the Gators: run the ball. The Hogs went up 7-0 with 2:09 left in the first quarter, going 64 yards in eight plays and scoring on Jonathan Williams' 4-yard run. He was stopped on a sweep to the left, bounced off a defender and reversed field to score in the right corner of the end zone.

It was Williams' fourth rushing touchdown of the season. The Gators were allowing just 53.5 yards on the ground, but Williams and Alex Collins had several long runs right away.

"You feel good," said Arkansas coach Bret Bielema of the start. "But unfortunately they don't call the game after the first quarter."

The Gators blew the first chance to score after getting a Razorbacks fumble on a Purifoy corner blitz at the Arkansas 29. Austin Hardin had a 48-yard field goal attempt blocked -- making him good on just half of his first eight tries of the season.

Purifoy wasn't done. After Brad Phillips replaced Hardin and hit a 28-yard field goal, Purifoy stepped in front of Brandon Allen's pass on third-and-5 and returned the ball 43 yards for the Gators' go-ahead touchdown. It was the junior's first career interception, coming with 8:33 left in the first half.

"It didn't help us," Bielema said of the stunning turnaround's impact. "It definitely inflated their sideline."

The Razorbacks finished the half with 150 yards, but just 30 came in the second quarter as Florida made some adjustments on the defensive front. The Hogs, now 1-9 all time against Florida, still became the first team to rush for more than 100 yards against the Gators with 111.

Florida got a huge momentum shift just before the half when Murphy hooked up with Patton for a 51-yard touchdown strike with 20 seconds left on a third-and-12 play. It was Patton's third touchdown catch in the last four games and gave the Gators a 17-7 halftime lead.

"He's a guy that if he gets a step it's a hard time catching him," Muschamp said of Patton.

Murphy said Patton is just one of several receivers starting to produce.

"Guys just continue to step up and the more guys who step up the more problems teams will have," he said.

NOTES: Florida's Mike Taylor recovered a fumble in the first quarter, giving the Gators a streak of 16 straight games with at least one forced turnover. ... Arkansas had 81 yards rushing against Florida in the first quarter -- the highest total that Florida had given up in an entire game all season. ... Hardin has missed three of four field goal attempts in the last three games. ... Dan Skipper, who blocked Hardin's attempt, has blocked two field goal tries this year. ... The Gators have intercepted a pass in eight straight games.
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