Blocked punt saves Florida against La.-Lafayette

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp said Jelani Jenkins is a great study with a grade-point average around 3.8. When the Gators' Loucheiz Pourifoy blocked a punt in the final seconds of Saturday's 27-20 homecoming win against Louisiana-Lafayette, Muschamp knew Jenkins would know what to do.
"I wish he'd ate those two seconds off so we didn't have to kick off," a sheepish Muschamp said after the dramatic win. "So that wasn't very smart on his part."
Actually, it was a day filled with not real smart plays by Florida that was saved by a couple of brilliant ones at the end to give the Gators their seventh come-from-behind win of the season.
Jenkins returned a blocked punt 36 yards for a touchdown with just two seconds left as No. 6 Florida rallied from what could have been arguably the biggest upset in college football this season.
Purifoy broke free from the outside to block the punt of Louisiana's Brett Baer, the ball twisting in the wind and into the arms of Jenkins. The play is called "Black" by the punt rush team.
It lifted Florida out of what could have been a very dark day on homecoming. Slowed on offense by the sprained ankle of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, 10 penalties for a loss of 79 yards and five quarterback sacks for another 24 yards in losses, the Gators (9-1) struggled all day.
Trailing 20-13 with 2:56 left and Driskel in the locker room, Florida went 49 yards to tie the game.
Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett hit tight end Jordan Reed for a 39-yard gain to the 3-yard line and found Quinton Dunbar in the right corner of the end zone for the touchdown. Caleb Sturgis' point-after tied it at 20 with 1:42 left.
"Man down, man up," Muschamp said. "We've said that all season. Give (Brissett) credit for making the throws."
Brissett completed 6 of 8 throws for 64 yards in his relief stint. Muschamp said Driskel only has a sprain but won't know the severity until later, so Brissett could get another start next week against Jacksonville State.
"That's what you dream about, no matter who it is against, for the last drive to come down to you," Brissett said.
Louisiana (5-4) played conservatively to try to run the clock out for overtime. But there were just enough seconds to save Florida.
"Give them credit for doing it right and making something happen," Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth said. "That's what great football teams do."
It was a tense second half.
The Ragin' Cajuns' Bradley Brown blocked a Kyle Christy punt and Blake Comminie returned it 22 yards for a touchdown that put Louisiana ahead 17-13 with 4:03 left in the third quarter. It was the Cajuns' first blocked punt of the season and the first one the Gators had allowed.
The Gators, after allowing just 20 points in the second half all season, gave up 14 in the first 11 minutes of the third quarter Saturday.
"We made some big plays when we had to but didn't make a big play, the biggest play, when we needed to and let that one sort of get away," Hudspeth said. "I felt like we had a legitimate chance to win a game when we were up and then they got the score (to tie). To be honest with you, I thought we were in good enough of a position to put the game into overtime. Then who knows what happens when you get into overtime?
Louisiana drove 77 yards in 12 plays to add a Baer field goal from 22 yards out to make it 20-13 with 13:11 left.
Florida took the game's first lead. Defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd forced a Louisana fumble and linebacker Jon Bostic fell on the ball at the Cajuns' 28. But the Gators couldn't do much with it and had to settle for a 38-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis. A Lou Groza Award finalist last year, Sturgis suffered an ankle injury in practice before last week's 14-7 win against Missouri and missed most of that contest.
After Sturgis' kick, Louisiana came back to get a 49-yard field goal of its own from Baer to tie it at 3-3 with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
Florida managed to scratch out a nine-play, 85-yard drive at the end of the second quarter. Driskel hit Trey Burton on a 2-yard score in the right corner of the end zone, and Florida led 10-3 at halftime. The big play in the drive was a 30-yard pass to Reed to get the ball to the Louisiana 4.
Aside from the Reed catch, Florida managed just 128 yards in the first half. The Cajuns had just 125.
Florida started the second half by driving 73 yards in six plays but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal to make it 13-3. Reed, a former backup quarterback, took a reverse from Driskel and tried to throw a pass to backup tight end Clay Burton in the end zone on third down, but Burton dropped it.
Louisiana came back with a 77-yard drive that took nine plays. A pass inference call on Purifoy on third-and-goal kept the drive alive. Alonzo Harris scored the touchdown from 2 yards out and it was 13-10 at 8:35 in the third.
NOTES: Baer's second field goal of the game was his 40th in 45 career attempts to give him an 88.9 percent accuracy rating, which is the best in NCAA history. ... UF linebacker Xavier Nixon (knee) missed his second straight game. ... Florida return man Andre Debose (knee) also sat out and defensive tackle Leon Orr continues to struggle with the flu and didn't see action. . . . UF has now blocked kicks in Muschamp's two seasons as head coach. . . . Dunbar has caught at least one pass in 13 straight games.

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