University of Florida

Tyler Murphy, Solomon Patton fuel Florida Gators past Arkansas

Tyler Murphy’s first pass Saturday night got Solomon Patton flattened — an ill-advised swing pass that arrived a split-second before Arkansas’ Tevin Mitchell blasted into Patton’s torso.

Five plays later, Murphy threw an incompletion.

So much for duplicating a perfect start.

Murphy remains perfect in the win-loss column, though. Credit much of that to Patton, for whom the Razorbacks seemingly couldn’t lay as much as a finger on the rest of the night.

Patton got his retribution with two touchdowns on nearly duplicate catch-and-runs, and Loucheiz Purifoy returned an interception 42 yards for another score as the No. 18 Gators pulled away to a 30-10 victory.

Patton set a career best with 124 receiving yards for the Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC), dashing into the end zone with a 51-yard reception just before halftime for his third touchdown of the season. He added a fourth on the first series after the break, this time from 38 yards out.

Murphy, who completed his first 13 passes in his first career start last week at Kentucky, hit on 16 of 22 for 240 yards against the Razorbacks — though two other completions also nearly got his receivers maimed. A third TD came on a shovel pass that Valdez Showers took 9 yards to pay dirt.

Purifoy was a big-play man on defense, forcing a first-quarter fumble before his pick-six finally gave the Gators some traction. Brad Phillips added a 28-yard field goal, summoned after redshirt freshman Austin Harden had one blocked early in the night.

It was the Gators’ eighth consecutive victory since Arkansas joined the SEC, including a pair of victories in the 1995 and 2006 SEC title tames. The Razorbacks dropped to 3-3 (0-2 SEC) in their first season since luring coach Bret Bielema from Wisconsin.

Arkansas led early on Jonathan Williams’ 4-yard TD run, but the Razorbacks’ only other scoring came on Zach Hocker’s 30-yard field goal. Brandon Allen threw for 164 yards, briefly missing time when he jammed his wrist during a third-quarter sack.

Trailing 10-7 late in the first half, Arkansas appeared primed to retake the lead when Purifoy mishandled a punt and the Razorbacks recovered at the UF 10. But an Arkansas gunner was too close to Purifoy, drawing an interference flag that gave the Gators possession at their own 25.

The Gators cashed that in six plays later when Patton grabbed a midrange pass in the flat and dashed the final 20 yards to the pylon, crossing the goal line with 20 seconds left before intermission for a 17-7 lead.

Florida also received the second-half kickoff, and it didn’t take long for Murphy and Patton to draw up a reprise. Patton was wide open when he grabbed Murphy’s short throw, again heading to the right pylon and dashing through the final two defenders to put the Gators in full control.

About the only bad news from there came when the Gators lost center Jonotthan Harrison midway through the third quarter, ejected for throwing himself at a Razorback’s knees on a downfield block.

Purifoy’s pick-six midway through the second quarter helped the Gators turn around an early deficit to lead 17-7 at halftime.

Five snaps after Phillips’ field goal cut Arkansas’ lead to 7-3, Allen misread the coverage and fired a chest-high pass toward Javontee Herndon that Purifoy nabbed before it was halfway to its target.

It was Purifoy’s first interception as a Gator, getting a bonus when he managed to cut inside and weave his way into the end zone for a 10-7 lead. It also marked the eighth consecutive game in which the Gators have picked off a pass.

Florida squandered a scoring opportunity midway through the first quarter after Purifoy slapped the ball from Allen’s grip on a blitz and Michael Taylor recovered at the Arkansas 29. But three snaps yielded one yard, and Hardin’s field-goal attempt from 48 yards hardly got off the ground for an easy block by Dan Skipper.

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