The Opening Kickoff
Arkansas at No. 18/19 Florida
Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Broadcast Info | Game
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Gators return home to face Arkansas on Saturday night in
the first home game under the lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in nearly two
The Swamp should be rocking.
This has the makings of a classic ground-and-pound type of
game. Both teams want to establish the run early and often.
The schools haven't played since a 23-20 Gators victory in
2009 on Caleb Sturgis' game-wining field goal in the final seconds.
This one could be a close one, too.
Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen is aware of the
Gators' SEC-leading defense.
"They're definitely a great defensive team,'' Allen
said. "It all comes back to us doing our part, us doing what we can to not
make our own mistakes to help them all. Because we really can't afford that.''
First-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema scrapped the
pass-happy spread offense used by former Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino
in favor of the run-first, pass-second attack he used at Wisconsin.
The Gators rely on a similar scheme with some wrinkles here
Florida coach Will Muschamp told his team last week that
nobody was going to feel sorry for the Gators following a recent rash of
injuries. They responded with a win in their SEC road opener at Kentucky.
The Razorbacks are expected to offer a stiffer challenge.
For starters, Muschamp would like another solid performance
from quarterback Tyler Murphy, who finished 15 of 18 for 156 yards in his first
career start last week.
"I think thatís one of his strengths: demeanor and how he
handles things," Muschamp said of Murphy's composure. "He doesnít get
caught in the moment, so to speak, as far as his emotions, and thatís something
you want at that position."
Let's take a look at the Arkansas-Florida matchup with The
Five Storylines to Watch
- We saw Murphy replace injured Jeff Driskel
against Tennessee and save the day. We saw him calmly complete his first
13 passes in his first road start at Kentucky. Now we get to see Murphy
make his first home start under the lights against an upgrade in
competition. He has passed every test thus far and will try to keep that
- The Gators have begun to re-establish some dominance at
The Swamp with nine consecutive wins at home. In Urban Meyer's
final season in 2010 and Muschamp's first in 2011, Florida was a combined
9-5 at home. This is the Gators' first home night game since a loss to
Florida State in the 2011 regular-season finale, so you can bet the home
fans want to see No. 10 in a row.
- Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease shooed
and talk of a running back controversy between tailbacks Matt Jones
and Mack Brown after Jones reeled off a career-high 176 yards at
Kentucky. Both have 100-yard games and while Jones appears close to the
powerful back we saw at the end of last season, Brown still figures
heavily into the plans.
- Over the last four years no SEC team ran the ball less
than Arkansas. Under Bielema, that has changed. Arkansas
is running the ball 65.2 percent of the time, which is second in the
league. The Razorbacks' backfield tandem of Jonathan Williams and
true freshman Alex Collins (SEC-best 527 yards rushing) is one of
the league's best and is certain to test Florida's SEC-leading defense.
- The Razorbacks' plus-12 sack differential leads the SEC
and ranks third in the country. Arkansas has 15 sacks and has surrendered
only three. The Gators recorded five sacks at Kentucky and will look to
get to Razorbacks quarterback Allen when they can. Allen threw 36 times in
last week's loss to Texas A&M.
Cast of Characters
- The Florida secondary, already among the best in the
nation, is expected to have cornerback Marcus Roberson back.
Roberson has missed the past two games due to a knee injury.
- The Gators are very familiar with Collins, a true
freshman they recruited from Fort Lauderdale. Collins played at South
Plantation High. Collins has four 100-yard games in his first five
collegiate outings and became the first true freshman in SEC history to
start his career with three consecutive 100-yard games.
- Sophomore defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard
moved from end to the interior line against Kentucky and had three tackles
and 1 1/2 sacks. Bullard's shift inside came after Florida lost starting
defensive tackle Dominique Easley for the season due to a knee
injury. Bullard and fellow run stoppers Damien Jacobs, Leon Orr
and Darious Cummings figure to be busy Saturday night.
- Muschamp praised the left side of the offensive line --
tackle D.J. Humphries and guard Max Garcia -- for the way
they played at Kentucky. With the Gators determined to run the ball, the
duo must be in top form against Arkansas' physical defensive line.
- Razorbacks defensive end Chris Smith (6-3, 270)
must be watched closely. Smith leads the SEC with seven tackles-for-loss
and is tied for third in the NCAA with six sacks.
The Quote File
- "Theyíre a very physical football team.
Defensively, we have not seen a team like this as far as the two-back run
game is concerned, the play-actions, very big up front, talented up front,
two talented runners in Williams and Collins." -- Muschamp on
is a great team guy. He does whatever the coaches ask him to do. Right now,
they are asking him to play a little receiver, and he has excelled at that and
is doing a great job. He is going to help us in many different ways." --
Murphy on senior receiver Trey Burton
- "Itís an opportunity to do something thatís never
been done here. Itís exciting for our guys." Bielema on potential of
winning at the Swamp
- "I thought Ronald played probably his best game
since heís been back, his best football. He played extremely hard in the
game; did a really nice job of pushing the pocket. Several sacks really
should be accredited to him.'' -- Muschamp on Gators defensive
lineman/linebacker Ronald Powell
- "Missing some time early on, heís getting better and better every week. With Loucheiz, itís just a matter of being on it every down technique-wise and fundamentally.
Heís got great ability; heís got great competitiveness. The guy plays hard, and
anything you ask him to do on any side of the ball, heís going to do it really
well." -- Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin on cornerback Loucheiz
Purifoy, who has been quiet this season other than for a blocked punt at
10 Quick Hitters
- The Gators are 8-0 against Arkansas since the
Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992. Florida's only loss to the Razorbacks
came in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl (28-24) at the Astrodome.
- Since Murphy took over, the Gators are 8-for-9 scoring
inside the red zone (six touchdowns). In the first two games Florida was
6-for-12 inside the red zone with only four touchdowns.
- The Gators are expected to have running back Valdez
Showers (ankle) available. Showers missed the last two games and
provides Florida more of an outside threat than Jones and Brown offer.
- Pease and Muschamp both said this week that freshman
running back Kelvin Taylor continues to improve in practice and
could be used more if he has the hot hand in the run game.
- Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker is one of the
nation's best. Hocker ranks first in school history in field-goal
percentage (77.5) and second in career field goals (55).
- Razorbacks freshman Hunter Henry is the only SEC
tight end with a 100-yard game this season. Henry had 109 receiving yards
in last week's loss to Texas A&M.
- Gators linebacker Michael Taylor is tied with
fellow linebacker Antonio Morrison for second on the team with 20
tackles. Taylor is playing the best of his career according to Durkin.
- Gators defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. leads the
team with six tackles-for-loss, including two sacks against Kentucky.
- This is the first time Bielema has coached a
regular-season game in the Sunshine State. He was 2-2 in bowl games in
Florida during his time as head coach at Wisconsin.
- Arkansas is the only team in the country that plays
four preseason top 10 teams in four consecutive weeks (Texas A&M,
Florida, South Carolina and Alabama).
The Bottom Line
These two teams play a similar style offensively so the team
that gets the running game humming and begins to wear down the opposing defense
is likely to leave the Swamp late Saturday night the winner.
The Gators will have a huge home-field advantage under the
lights and in front of what is expected to be a lively crowd. Florida fans have
clamored for a night game and finally get one against an SEC team.
If Murphy can mix in a few big plays while taking care of
the ball, Florida's defense should be able to do the rest.