Gators hogtie Razorbacks 30-10 in Gainesville

Despite looking shaky early, the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (4-1, 3-0 SEC) stood strong defensively and used some big plays on both sides of the ball to complete a 30-10 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2 SEC) on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators gave up more rushing yards in the first quarter than it did in any full game in 2013 but tightened the reigns over the final three quarters, holding the visitors to three points over the last 47:09 of the game.

Meanwhile, Florida redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy continued to flash improvement as a signal caller, completing 16-of-22 passes for career-highs of 240 yards and three touchdowns.

Improving to 9-1 all-time against the Razorbacks, the Gators have won nine-straight games in the series dating back to 1995.

Arkansas opened the contest by gashing Florida in the running game, picking up 48 yards on the ground in its first two series, the same amount UF gave up in four quarters to Kentucky last week. One play after Hogs running back Alex Collins exploded for a 28-yard run, the Gators made their first huge defensive play of the game.

Florida junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy rushed in on a blitz, strip-sacking QB Brandon Allen and forcing a fumble that was recovered by redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor. UF was unable to capitalize, however, as redshirt freshman Austin Hardin kicked a 48-yard field goal attempt into the line of scrimmage for a block.

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Ousted UK coach Phillips making impact at UF

Joker Phillips’ career with the Kentucky Wildcats spanned parts of four decades including 23 seasons and hundreds of games as a player, graduate assistant, assistant coach, coordinator and head coach.

On Saturday, for just the second time in his 26-year coaching career, Phillips will step foot into Commonwealth Stadium as a visitor, an unwelcome guest looking to earn a victory with his new team, the Florida Gators.

Due to program regulations, Phillips – a position coach – was not made available to speak with the media, so he could not directly discuss his thoughts and feelings entering Saturday’s contest. But other coaches and players provided were able to provide their opinions on his behalf.

“I know as a player and a coach there, as a coordinator and a head coach, there’s no question I’m sure he’ll be emotional about that. Any time you spend a lot of time at a place, as much time as we spend hours in the office and working hard for a university, there’s no question that’s part of it,” head coach Will Muschamp said.

“Joker is a professional. He’ll handle it the right way. Any time you spend a large amount of your life as a player and as an assistant, a coordinator and a head coach [at one school], certainly you’re invested in that university. …

“You do feel a little different going back to a place like that that you spent so much time. People don’t realize the amount of time and effort we put in to what we do, giving our time to young people and dedication to the administration and all the things involved with a university. And then when you’re not there anymore, for whatever reason, it takes a little part away from you. You always leave something where you’ve been before. I’m sure Joker feels the same way.

“He and I talked a little bit about it Sunday night, the amount of time he spent in Lexington and how much he enjoyed it and the situation there. He really has fond memories of his time at Kentucky.”

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9/23: Muschamp talks injuries, rushers, Kentucky

No. 19/20 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss Saturday’s 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers and his team’s upcoming road game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 28. The contest will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPNU.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp announced that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel’s surgery, originally scheduled for Sunday, will instead be performed on Wednesday. Driskel broke his right fibula during Saturday’s game and will have a plate inserted in the leg. “Again, very disappointed for Jeff. It’s part of the game, but it’s very difficult to deal with. Really hurt for him and his family and for us as a football team,” he said.

One other serious injury occurred as redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson, who missed all of 2012 due to injury, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot and will probably miss 1-2 weeks. “I’m disappointed for Colin. He was starting to really progress and do well for us,” Muschamp said. “He’s had some issues with his foot; this is a different issue with his foot. It’s something that has not happened before.”

Three other Gators were injured Saturday but each is expected to be active for Saturday’s game. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr hurt his shoulder and will miss practice on Monday but should be back Tuesday or Wednesday. Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who sat out the first two games of the season with a torn pectoral, got poked in the eye early Saturday and had three stitches after the game. “He’s going to be fine for this week. I’ll tell you, a tough young man he is to play through that,” Muschamp said. Junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was also knocked from the game after being hit hard on a kickoff return; he was later diagnosed with a thigh contusion and was back at practice running on Sunday.

As for the three Florida players that missed the Tennessee game, Muschamp believes two will be healthy enough to play at Kentucky. Junior CB Marcus Roberson (knee) ran well Sunday and will be back at practice Tuesday, and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) will also be back in action Tuesday. Redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers, who injured his ankle during practice on Wednesday, was listed as “doubtful” and will likely be out at least one if not two weeks.

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Florida receivers trending upward, running game questions, Jeff Driskel’s redshirt eligibility

OnlyGators.com tackles three hot topics coming out of Saturday’s 31-17 victory by the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators have seen wide receivers step up, must deal with a change in running philosophy and have questions to answer about the team’s future at quarterback.

WIDEOUTS BEGINNING TO EMERGE

Heading into the 2013 season, it appeared that Florida’s best chance to significantly improve its passing game would come on the back of two players – just not the two players that have stood out through the first three games. With redshirt senior Andre Debose (torn ACL) out for the season and supposed freshman sensation Demarcus Robinson held catchless in his first two games (he was suspended against Tennessee for a violation of team rules), two veterans have stepped up in a major way.

Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar has amassed 162 yards on 11 catches over the last two contests. He had a career-high 98 yards against Miami on Sept. 7 and added 63 yards – his third-highest collegiate total – on Saturday.

Perhaps even more impressive, senior Solomon Patton has totaled 192 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games. In his previous 32 appearances, Patton only combined for 100 receiving yards and never found the end zone once.

“We challenged him. ‘Do you want to just continue to be a jet sweep guy or do you want to be a major contributor to our football team?’” explained head coach Will Muschamp after Saturday’s game.

“So he worked on route running. He worked on letting us have the confidence to tailor some things after him. … He mastered those throughout spring and then he had a great summer. He came in and had a really good camp. That, to me, as much as anything, he saw an opportunity his senior year in his last go-around at the University of Florida and ‘I’m going to take advantage of my opportunities.’ And he certainly did.”

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9/21: Florida vs. Tennessee post-game report

Six forced turnovers and a surprisingly poised performance by redshirt junior back-up quarterback Tyler Murphy led the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) past the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. After topping the visitors 31-17, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.

DANNY WUERFFEL AS MR. TWO BITS

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida is extended its winning streak against Tennessee to nine games (2005-13).
» UF also won its ninth-straight SEC opener (eight against UT).
» The Vols fell to 1-24 against top 25 teams since 2008 and have now lost 18-straight games when squaring off against ranked opponents.
» The Gators are 14-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (6-9 when rushing for fewer than 150 yards). Florida is also 16-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 12-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 7-6 when an opponent scores first and 16-1 when leading at the half.
» UF is 16-2 against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» UT did not score an offensive touchdown until there was 10:10 left in the game.
» The Gators have now possessed the ball for 38:20 or longer in each of their three games this season. Florida out-possessed Tennessee 39:37-20:23 on Saturday.
» UF has forced at least one turnover in 14-straight games.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (354).
» Florida’s six turnovers were the most the team has forced in a single game since Aug. 30, 2008 against Hawaii and the most UF has registered against an SEC opponent since doing the same to UT on Sept. 21, 1996.

» Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton registered 100 receiving yards and no receiving touchdowns combined in the first 32 games of his career. Over the last two games, Patton has totaled 192 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He had three receptions for 73 yards, including a career-long 52-yard catch, and a score on Saturday.
» Murphy threw a completion and a touchdown pass for the first time in his college career. He finished 8-of-14 for 134 yards and a score but also picked up 84 yards and a rushing touchdown on 10 carries.
» Redshirt junior running back Mack Brown led Florida in rushing with 86 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
» Five different Gators forced turnovers including sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., who created two forced fumbles – the first and second of his career.
» Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye and junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings each caught the first interception of their respective careers.

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Defense dominates, Murphy shines as Florida wins ninth-straight over Tennessee 31-17

Supported by a dominant defense that forced six turnovers on the afternoon, redshirt junior back-up quarterback Tyler Murphy shined as he led the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) to a 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Replacing junior starting QB Jeff Driskel midway through the first quarter, Murphy finished 8-of-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown and also carried the ball 10 times for 84 yards and another score on the ground.

Driskel, while throwing a pick-six on UF’s second offensive series of the game, broke a bone in his right leg and never returned. He will miss the remainder of the season.

The Gators, which have now won nine-straight games against the Vols dating back to 2005, utilized a superb defensive effort to mitigate the early miscue – along with numerous others throughout the game – and pull off the victory.

Junior punter Kyle Christy muffed a snap on Florida’s first offensive series, and Tennessee subsequently took over at UF’s 15-yard line. UT would not convert the turnover into points, however, because sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. forced and recovered a fumble on second down to give the ball back to UF.

The Vols’ next offensive series ended the same way with Fowler sacking QB Nathan Peterman and forcing a fumble that was recovered by redshirt junior LB Michael Taylor at the six-yard line. The Gators only came away with three points as redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin made a 23-yard field goal.

Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole registered Florida’s third turnover of the game by picking off Peterman at UF’s 44-yard line. Two plays later, Murphy hit senior wide receiver Solomon Patton on a screen that Patton took 52 yards for a touchdown.

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Florida’s Pease on red zone, receivers, offense

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the third game of the season against the Tennessee Volunteers on Sept. 21.

MOVING THE BALL, PUTTING UP POINTS

Offense is about two things – possessing the ball for a long period of time and putting points on the scoreboard. The Gators were successful at doing one of those things against Miami but not the other as Florida gained 413 yards of total offense but only found the end zone once two Saturdays ago.

“We’ve moved the ball, and it’s come down to really this last game where, in the red zone, decisions, we turned the ball over. We had two bad decisions and really two bad calls on me. The quarterback sneak when we were down there, that’s on me. I shouldn’t have done it,” Pease said on Tuesday.

UF being a run-first offense intent on owning time of possession in a game and keeping the ball away from the other team has not resulted in high-scoring games for the Gators over the last three years, something that does not appear to bother Pease.

He is more concerned with completing long drives and seeing individual players break out during a game.

“We’re built to hold onto the ball a little bit more. I still think that we try to build explosive plays on what we can do. We stress to our kids, ‘You got to create dynamic situations. If you get the ball in your hands, you have to be that dynamic person.’ We got to take more advantage of our opportunities when we’re touching the ball on our drives because we’re not probably going to create as many drives for ourselves,” he explained.

“Our efficiency is going to be more grinding it a little bit more and create some big plays throwing the football. That’s where I think we got to be more consistent in getting points because we’re probably more designed to go 6-12 plays in a drive rather than 3-4 and hold onto the ball for more than two minutes in a drive.”

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Florida QB Driskel’s career day marred by miscues

Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel was not the only member of the No. 9/12 Florida Gators (1-1) that turned the ball over on Saturday. But as the leader of the team and offense, his mistakes were the most glaring – and game-changing.

And that’s why the story of Florida’s 21-16 loss to the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes (2-0) at Sun Life Stadium, at least as it pertains to Driskel, is centered on his three untimely turnovers rather than the career-high 291 yards he threw for on the afternoon.

It’s also why he took responsibility after the game – not like he had much of a choice in the matter.

“We couldn’t hold onto the ball. I think we had five turnovers. It started with me,” he said. “I was careless with the ball, a couple of interceptions, putting the ball on the ground there at the end and a couple of fumbles. They were all costly.”

The turnover parade did not start with Driskel. Sophomore running back Matt Jones, playing his first game of the season after being sidelined with a serious viral infection, fumbled the ball on his third carry of the season during the game’s opening possession.

Down 14-6, Driskel led the Gators into the red zone by completing a 46-yard pass to senior wide receiver Solomon Patton. He negated his productive bomb with his first pick of the game, a pass to Patton – who was covered by five orange jerseys – from the Canes’ 11-yard line on 3rd-and-Goal.

“When I saw the ball in the air and I saw the guy cutting it, I knew it wasn’t pretty,” he explained. “It was a dumb play. I should have just taken what the defense gave me. Instead, I tried to make the bigger play. That’s what I’ve got to move on from.”

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