GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- His position coach had heard Loucheiz Purifoy’s fellow defensive backs take aim at the junior cornerback with some playful remarks.
“Oh yeah, they’d teased about it, all right,” Florida secondary coach Travaris Robinson said. “One of the best cornerbacks in the country and he don’t even have an interception.”
After Saturday night, Purifoy’s mockers will need some new material.
With his team trailing early and looking for a spark, Purifoy picked off Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen and returned the interception 42 yards for a touchdown, setting off an ambush of Florida points and 30-10 defeat of the Razorbacks at the “Swamp.”
“The top came off the place when that happened,” UF coach Will Muschamp said.
The play gave the Gators a lead they would not relinquish and sent the home crowd (and the home sideline) into a frenzy. He was far from done, too. By night's end, Purifoy’s defensive stat line showed four tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and that interception ... for a TD, of course.
“That’s part of the game -- wait your turn,” Purifoy said. “It’s been kind of frustrating, but you have to take it as it comes.”
And that’s one of the reasons Purifoy’s first interception of his college career came in his 30th game; seldom have teams opted to come in Purifoy’s direction and his game-altering play demonstrated why.
With Arkansas leading 7-3 and facing a third-and-six, slot receiver Keon Hatcher ran a “whip” route out of the backfield. Purifoy had help to the inside and shaded the play to the outside. His coverage was perfect.
“He still threw it,” Purifoy said.
“And he took it to the crib,” UF linebacker Mike Taylor added.
Up to that point, the Razorbacks, armed with the Southeastern Conference’s No. 2 rushing attack at 237 yards per game, had been able to move the football against a Florida defense that not only led the league in stopping the run (53.5 per game), but rated second in the country.
The Hogs had 81 rushing yards through the first quarter, more than the Gators had given up in any game this season.
“We weren’t happy about that,” Taylor said. “That wasn’t us.”
The rest of the game was very much the Gators, however, as UF's defense tightened up its run fits and limited the Hogs to just 30 yards on the ground the reset of the night. It took Purifoy’s pilfer to get the Gators back on their defensive track.
But the first interception of his career? Even some of his teammates found that hard to believe.
“Seriously?” sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler III asked. “That’s crazy.”
That’s because he’s done so many other things along the way.
Coming into the year, the player rated as the No. 1 defensive prospect in the likely 2014 NFL draft class had forced four fumbles and blocked two kicks, including the season-saving blocked punt -- returned for a touchdown -- with three seconds left to Louisiana-Lafayette last season.
"At any moment, he’s liable to turn a game around, taking the ball from somebody or intercepting a ball,” junior cornerback Cody Riggs said. "We knew it was just a matter of time before somebody got greedy and went after Loucheiz."
Or as senior safety Jalen Watkins put it, “You really can’t mess with a guy who has six or seven turnovers alone on blocked punts.”
But they did anyway.
They probably won’t anymore.
“I trust him with anything we do out there,” Robinson said. “He’s a helluva player, a big-timer and I’m extremely proud that his first career interception went to the house.”