Saturday October 4, 2008No. 12 Florida Defeats Arkansas, 38-7
Sparked by a strong fourth quarter in which 246 of the team’s 512 total offensive yards were earned, the No. 12 Florida Gators (4-1, 2-1) defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2), 38-7, in front of a crowd of 70,072 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark. The victory marks the fourth-straight win on the road for the Gators, the longest streak under Coach Meyer and extends Florida’s series record to 7-1 versus the Razorbacks.
The Gators were first on the scoreboard after quarterback Tim Tebow (Jackonsville, Fla.) connected with junior Brandon James (St. Augustine, Fla.) on a two-yard shuffle pass, the first touchdown catch of his career. Previously in the drive, Tebow converted on a fourth down and inches at Arkansas’ six-yard line. Kicker Jonathan Phillips’ (Wellington, Fla.) successful extra point attempt gave the Gators a 7-0 lead with 6:54 remaining in the first quarter.
After two scoreless possessions by both squads, the Gators regained control of the ball when James recovered a fumble, the first of his career, on a punt return by Michael Smith off a 51-yard punt by sophomore Chas Henry (Dallas, Ga.). Freshman athlete Jeffrey Demps (Okahumpka, Fla.) extended the Gators’ lead, 14-0, on a 36-yard touchdown run with 7:19 to play in the half. Demps owns three of the top-four longest carries by a Gator this season, with two of those being touchdown runs.
Sophomore cornerback Joe Haden (Fort Washington, Md.) halted the Razorbacks’ 55-yard drive with an interception and 24-yard return in the closing seconds of the first half to maintain the 14-0 lead for the Orange and Blue. The pick was his first of the season and second of his career.
After a 33-yard kickoff return by James was called back due to an illegal block in back, the Gators were forced to settle for three following an 11-play, 46-yard drive. Phillips’ 37-yard field goal gave the Gators a 17-0 advantage with 9:17 to play in the third quarter.
Arkansas answered with a seven-play, 52-yard scoring drive capped by a six-yard touchdown reception by running back Michael Smith to narrow the margin 17-7 with 5:50 to play in the third quarter.
Florida was able to extend its drive after successfully executing a fake punt on fourth down and one yard to go on their own 44-yard line with a 10-yard carry by James. However, the Gators lost possession four plays later on an interception by linebacker Jerry Franklin. The pick snapped Tebow’s streak of 203 pass attempts without an interception, the third longest streak in SEC history.
Tebow answered the interception in the Gators’ next drive, going four-for-four with 74 yards in the air. The six-play, 83-yard drive was highlighted by three receptions of over 15 yards including 16-yard reception by redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, Fla.) and 19-yard and 20-yard catches by senior Louis Murphy (St. Peterburg, Fla.). The drive was capped by a 21-yard touchdown catch by Percy Harvin (Virginia Beach, Va.), giving the Gators a 24-7 lead with 14:41 in the final stanza.
Special teams continued to shine for the Orange and Blue as sophomore Ahmad Black (Lakeland, Fla.) blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt by Razorbacks’ kicker Shay Haddock to give the Gators possession at their own 20-yard line. Three plays later Florida was able to tack on another seven points to the scoreboard following a 75-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.) to propel the Gators to a 31-7 lead with 5:07 to play in the game. Rainey’s carry marks the longest rush this season among Gators.
After a scoreless possession by the Razorbacks, redshirt freshman John Brantley (Ocala, Fla.) took the helm at quarterback for the Gators, leading the team on a 73-yard, seven-play scoring drive capped by a 48-yard carry by Demps for his second score of the game to give the Gators a 38-7 margin of victory. The score, which occurred with 1:06 left in the game, would be the final score for either team.
Tebow was 17-for-26 with 216 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. For the first time since 1997, two Gator running backs had over 100 yards on the ground with Rainey carrying 10 times for 103 yards and one touchdown and Demps tallying two touchdowns with 103 yards on seven carries. Murphy collected 69 yards receiving on five carries.
The Gators will return home on Oct. 11 to face SEC foe LSU (4-0, 2-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game, which kicks off at 8 p.m., will air live on CBS.