GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As if the first night game at Florida Field in two years wasn't electric enough, Solomon Patton and Loucheiz Purifoy provided an extra power surge for the home team Saturday night.
Patton, the senior wide receiver, turned a pair of nice gains into long touchdown catches and Purifoy, the junior cornerback, returned an interception 43 yards for a score to lead the 18th-ranked Gators to a 30-10 defeat of Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas at the "Swamp."
The win was Florida's 10th straight at home and kept the Gators (4-1, 3-0) tied with Georgia atop the SEC Eastern Division standings.
Junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, making his first start before the home crowd since replacing Jeff Driskel (season-ending broken leg), completed 16 of 22 passes for a career-high 240 yards and scores of 51 and 38 to Patton, plus a late shovel-pass toss to tailback Valdez Showers. The UF defense got off to a slow start, but stiffened for the final three quarters and put the clamps on the Razorbacks' high-powered rushing attack.
The Hogs (3-3, 0-2) came into the game averaging 237 yards per game on the ground, second-best in the league. Against the Gators -- armed with the nation's second-best run defense -- they gained 111 yards rushing on 29 attempts.
But it was a UF defensive back who ignited his team and crowd when they needed it most.
The Razorbacks led 7-3 and faced and third-and-6 late in the first quarter when they sent slot receiver Keon Hatcher out on a flair route into the right flat. From his left cornerback spot, Purifoy read quarterback Brandon Allen all the way, stepped in front of the pass -- for the first interception of his career -- and followed a calvary of UF defenders to the end zone at the 8:33 mark of the second period to put the Gators up 10-7.
That's where the score stood late in the half when Murphy was flushed from the pocket, found an open passing lane and roped a ball toward Patton about 20 yards downfield. The 5-foot-9, 177-pound Patton came back for the ball, wheeled around and sped off down the sideline to turn what would have been really nice gains (and first down) into really spectacular touchdown.
And then he did it again in the second half.
Patton's second touchdown came at the 11:23 mark of the third period and capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive to give the Gators a three-score advantage. Like before, he came back to the ball to help Murphy find a target and outraced Razorbacks to the end zone.
The Gators also got a 28-yard field goal from senior placekicker Brad Phillips in the second quarter and a 7-yard shovel-pass touchdown from Valdez Showers, out the previous two games with an ankle sprain, late in the fourth.
Arkansas took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when freshman tailback Jonathan Williams went around left end, broke a couple tackles in the backfield, then reversed his field and outraced the UF defense for a 4-yard touchdown run.
The score gave the Hogs an early lead and seemingly an early mental edge in the trenches. In the first quarter, the Hogs cranked out 81 rushing yards against the nation's No. 2 rush defense, which came in allowing just 53.5 yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry.
From the second quarter on, however, Arkansas managed just 155 yards of total offense, only 30 on the ground. Freshman tailback Alex Collins, who started the night as the SEC's No. 2 rusher (597 yards, 119.4 per game), finished with 54 yards on 13 carries. More than half of those yards came on a 28-yard run in the first period.
The Gators had a chance to get on the scoreboard after a sack-strip play by a blitzing Purifoy forced a turnover and gave a UF a first down at the Arkansas 29, but placekicker Austin Hardin's 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked. After that miss, Hardin was benched in favor of Phillips, who made his kick at the 11:11 mark to get the Gators on the board.