GAINESVILLE. Fla. - There is no doubt that a bad call cost Arkansas a win in The Swamp in 2009 – so bad that the referees got suspended for the next week's games.
This time it was right before halftime that a call – which turned out to be a correct albeit very, very strange call - that went against the Razorbacks and they compounded it by allowing the Gators to score a touchdown in the final minute before intermission.
Solomon Patton's 59-yard catch and dash to the end zone would give No. 18 Florida big momentum heading into the locker room and it went on to hammer Arkansas 30-10 Saturday night before 90,043 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"Obviously disappointed," Razorback head coach Bret Bielema said. "This isn't a lot of fun, but I thought our guys prepared during the course of the week with the expectation to win, came out ready to play, and I thought they executed fairly well in the first quarter.
"We knew we were going to have to be able to run the football and throw the football, and over the course of time, just too many issues – had too many dropped balls, we had a pick-six, we had a couple missed tackles that let in 14 easy points for them," Bielema added. "Playing a ranked opponent at home on their own turf you, you can't do those things and expect to win."
It was a strange night with the aforementioned call, Florida offensive lineman Jon Harrison being ejected for pushing a ref and Arkansas losing three starters to injury during the game in center Travis Swanson (MCL injury), cornerback Will Hines (broken arm) and tailback Jonathan Williams (knee).
Quarterback Brandon Allen was battered all night by the Gators defense and and tight end Hunter Henry also had to come out of the game at times in the loss for the Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2), who have lost three straight to Rutgers, No. 10 Texas A&M and Florida (4-1, 3-0).
Allen ended the night 17-of-41 passing for 164 yards – with numerous drops adding to the frustration of losing a fumble and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown for a second straight week.
He clearly got rattled in a contest where the Gators had two sacks, seven quarterback hurries and were called for four personal foul penalties – three of them for late hits on Allen.
"If you are back there getting your tail knocked off, it's going to change you," Bielema said. "We were breaking down in our protections. Couple guys we turned loose got blindside shots. We gotta get that corrected. I don't care if we're gonna run one or two protection. We're gonna protect our quarterback. We won't survive in the SEC playing like that. A lot of things to cleanup."
Florida native Alex Collins, a true freshman for the Razorbacks, had 41 of his 54 yards rushing in the first quarter and also caught five passes for 45 yards.
Arkansas – after having just one penalty in last week's 45-33 loss to Texas A&M – had eight in the loss to Florida.
"We had eight penalties today, just way too much, too much stuff that you just can't do that and expect to win on the road," Bielema said.
Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a former assistant who was a finalist for the Arkansas job before Bobby Petrino was hired, was happy with the win as his team prepares to visit LSU for a showdown next week.
"I'm pleased with the win," Muschamp said. "...Arkansas has a good football team and Bret does a good job. They have some good young talent, they play hard and they play physical, they play tough. They are going to win some football games."
Arkansas had 120 yards total offense in the first quarter – including 81 yards rushing which was more than any foe had rushed for in game against Florida this season – but only 101 after that in the final three quarters.
"You feel good, but unfortunately they don't call the game after the end of the first quarter," Bielema said. "Four quarter game, our kids are in them, they're fighting, they're competing. Someday we're gonna get over that mountain. But until that point we just gotta keep playing a little bit cleaner."
Tyler Murphy was 16-of-22 passing for 240 yards and two touchdowns for Florida, who had 355 yards total offense in the win.
He was also sacked twice, but made several plays with his feet to keep alive plays – including on the efforts where he connected with Patton (six catches, 124 yards) on two scoring tosses.
"It's big having awareness and knowing when to step up," Muschamp said. "He had a couple of really nice throws across the middle, especially in the first half. He did a good job in the third quarter of stepping up in the pocket. He did a great job of finding the window, stepping up and finding time."
Arkansas did hold Florida to just 50 yards rushing, but didn't have the same luck in pass coverage.
"That is one thing we take pride in is stopping the run," Razorback junior defensive end Trey Flowers said. "We just didn't make enough big plays. We stopped them and sustained them pretty much, but the big plays hurt us."
After Dan Skipper blocked a Florida field goal attempt, Arkansas took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on an 8-play, 64-yard drive that was culminated with Jonathan Williams reversing his field and running about 30 yards for what was officially a 4-yard scoring dash.
Zach Hocker's PAT was true as the Razorbacks found pay dirt in part because of the running of Collins and a 31-yard pass from Allen to true freshman Henry that set up the score.
Florida would cut it to 7-3 early in the second quarter before disaster struck for the Razorbacks in the form of a pick six given up for the second straight week.
Allen's pass into double coverage was intercepted by Loucheiz Purifoy, who took his first career interception 42 yards to the house.
Phillips' PAT gave the Gators a 10-7 lead with 11:11 left in the second quarter.
"I've seen that play a lot, but I haven't seen him finish that play," Muschamp said of Purifoy. "He's been in that position and he bats them down sometimes, but to finish on that play and create some momentum and get the crowd going, the top came off the place when that happened.
"I thought it was impressive," Muschamp added. "We executed the coverage very well. He's an aggressive player and the way we play, some of those calls are going to happen."
Bielema wasn't as impressed with the play as one would expect.
"Well, it didn't help us," Bielema said. "Definitely inflated their sideline. I thought they really got the mojo back over there before the end of the half, but I liked the way we came out in the second half. I know the defense gave up a score, but there wasn't anybody flinching, I know that."
Purifoy was then involved in yet another game-changing play when he bobbled Sam Irwin- Hill's punt after calling for a fair catch.
It went into the arms of Arkansas linebacker Jarrett Lake and would have given the Razorbacks the ball at the Gators' 10-yard line and a chance to take the lead into intermission.
But Lake was called for fair catch interference for not allowing Purifoy to complete his catch of the bobbled punt.
Bielema, who has been on the rules committee, said it was the right call.
"The rule is basically if a guy muffs the punt, which the receiver, the returner did, if he muffs it he is allowed to try and recover that uninterrupted, unimpeded before the ball hits the
ground," Bielema said. " and when the ball went up in the air, I think it was [Jarrett] Lake that was right there tried to grab it, and that was the foul. That's why it happened. I knew the penalty was the correct call, which is why I didn't argue it.
"There's a lot of things in football that don't, could be fair or whatnot, but it is the rule," Bielema said. "If it was us in that same position, I'd expect it to get called the right way. It's just kind of one of those bam, bam plays, and a very good officiating crew caught it."
Six plays later, Patton broke a tackle attempt by Tevin Mitchel and raced into the end zone with 20 seconds left in the first half.
In what seemed almost like a replay, Patton broke free from Mitchel again early in the third quarter and this time dashed 38 for the score as it quickly grew to 24-7 at the 11:23 mark.
"It was real big," Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith said. "We were thinking of going out and in the second half and (then) they got another one on us. You know 83 (Patton) made two really big plays that changed the game and won the game for them. That was the main thing for me tonight."
Arkansas did put itself in position to make it a game again when Hocker's 30-yard field goal cut it to 24-10.
The Razorback staff chose to on-side kick at that point and Javontee Herndon recovered it, but at least three players were offsides.
"...If we were going to get back in, we had to cleanly execute that onside kick," Bielema said. "We saw the hole there we knew we were going to be able to execute it. But you put Herndon in there to make the play and obviously he was offsides, and it was poorly executed. I'll take responsibility for that. Gotta get those guys coached up better to be onsides, I thought it was a critical point and could have got us back in the game there."
Murphy's shovel pass to Valdez Showers for a 9-yard TD removed any doubt wth 4:47 left in the game to make it 30-10.
Arkansas had a 17-play drive late in the game, but was not able to score in the final minute of the game after getting to the Florida 4-yard line and the Gators calling timeout to reinsert some starters on defense.
The Razorbacks will host No. 13 South Carolina next week at 11:21 a.m. as they continue a gauntlet that has them playing four top 20 teams.
"I have not one day since I've been here had to worry about our kids' work ethic or attitude or energy," Bielema said. " It comes to a point where you need to be rewarded. Who knows when it will come or how it will come, but if we just stay the faith and these kids are learning a lot on a daily basis that hopefully will put them over the hump."
Smith echoed that same sentiment.
"Just move forward," Smith said. "That is one thing with me being a captain is telling the guys that we have an SEC opponent next week, homecoming, with South Carolina coming in. Just move forward. It is very hard to stay upbeat. But like coaches say just put this one behind you and keep moving forward."
Kiero Small popped a 19-yard run in the first half.
Hunter Henry rolls with a 31-yard reception.
Trey Flowers sacks Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy.
Photos by Jason Ivester, Hawgs Illustrated
Florida 30, Arkansas 10
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