GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Loucheiz Purifoy blocked a punt and Jelani Jenkins returned it 36 yards with :02 remaining as Florida (9-1 overall, 7-1 SEC) stunned Louisiana (5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) with 14 points in the final 1:42 to win 27-20.
Jacoby Brissett, who came on in relief for an injured Jeff Driskel, hit Quinton Dunbar with a 3-yard touchdown pass with 1:42 to tie the game. The Gator defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing drive and the Gators called time out with :13 left, forcing Louisiana to punt.
Purifoy broke through and blocked the punt and Jenkins returned it 36 yards to send the Swamp crowd into pandemonium.
After tailing 13-3, Louisiana had rallied for 17 straight points, including a 22-yard blocked punt return of its for a touchdown to take a 20-13 fourth quarter lead.
Bradley Brown blocked the Kyle Christy punt and Blake Comminie scooped it up to give the Ragin’ Cajuns their first lead of the game with 4:03 left in the third quarter. Brett Baer has added a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend the Ragin’ Cajuns lead to 20-13.
The Gator offense struggled much of the day and the challenge get harder when Brissett entered late in the third quarter for Driskel, who went down with an ankle injury and never returned. The offense did little in the fourth quarter until the Gators took over with 2:56 to go at the Louisiana 49-yard line and needed four plays to tie the game. Brissett hit Reed over the middle for a 39-yard gain to the Louisiana 3-yard line, then finished the drive with the scoring pass to Dunbar.
Florida at one point had built a 13-3 lead with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel to Trey Burton with :07 left in the first half and a 21-yard field goal from Caleb Sturgis on the opening drive of the third quarter.
After struggling early, Florida pieced back-to-back solid drives to end the first half and start the second to break a 3-3 tie. Driskel’s touchdown pass to Burton capped a 9-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that more than doubled what Florida had produced offensively for the first 28 minutes of the second half.
After receiving the kick in the second half the Gators marched 72 yards on six plays and got a 21-yard field goal from Sturgis to make it 13-3. Omarius Hines took the opening play of the half 30 yards and was aided with a 15-yard face mask, while Driskel showed his wheels with a 24-yard run to the Louisiana 5-yard line to set up the field goal.
Louisiana refused to go away and quickly struck for 17 straight points to grab the lead.
Louisiana responded with a 9-play, 77-yard drive on its first possession of the second half, capping it with a 2-yard touchdown run by Alonzo Harris to cut it to 13-10 with 8:35 left in the third quarter.
After stopping the Gators on the ensuing drive, Brown got through and blocked Christy’s punt and Comminie gave Louisiana its first lead, then Baer made it 20-13 with 13:11 to go.
As the game started, the Gators took advantage of an early turnover to strike first on a 38-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis.
On the opening drive of the game, it appeared Louisiana quarterback Terrance Broadway hit Harry Peoples for a first down pass to move the chains. The ball came loose and the officials initially ruled Peoples down. The Gators challenged and the replay showed the ball came loose before Peoples was down and Jonathan Bostic recovered at the Louisiana 28.
The Gators were unable to move the chains offensively and settled for a 38-yard field goal from Sturgis with 11:22 left in the first quarter.
The Ragin’ Cajuns got back into it with Brett Baer’s 49-yard field goal with 4:02 left in the first quarter. Broadway hit Darryl Surgent with a 48-yard gain to the Florida 37-yard line to set up the score.
Florida led 10-3 at the half in a game that was played at a very pedestrian pace as both teams struggled to find a rhythm. Once they did, the squads battled back and forth before the Gators pulled out an improbable win.
Florida finished with 311 yards of offense, 162 yards rushing and 149 yards rushing. Driskel was 13-of-16 for 98 yards and a touchdown before exiting, and also ran for a team-high 76 yards on 12 carries. Brissett hit 6-of-8 passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
The Gators were able to overcome 10 penalties for 79 yards.
Louisiana finished with 267 yards of offense, as Broadway was 16-of-23 for 171 yards passing. Harris finished with 68 yards on 20 carries.
The Gators have their home finale next Saturday when Jacksonville State comes to the Swamp for a 1 p.m. kick off.