Patton's patience paying off

There were multiple times in his career that Solomon Patton could have transferred. He wasn't getting snaps early in his career and was only used in the offense on jet sweeps and screens. He rarely touched the ball, especially when he got down the field. But he didn't want to leave Gainesville. Patton worked hard in the offseason and turned himself into a trusted member of the Florida offense.

Patton is happy that it's all happening at Florida. He came into this season, his senior year and final chance at making an impact, with eight catches for 79 yards in his career. The senior wide receiver almost decided to leave much earlier in his career.

"When you're a freshman, everybody thinks of that," Solomon Patton said.

However, his thoughts soon led him to make a rational decision. He wanted to come to Florida to make an impact on the offense, and it hadn't happened yet. Patton wasn't ready to leave until that happened.

So he put in the work this offseason. After handling the jet sweeps last season, the coaches challenged him to become more of a complete receiver. Asked about it after Saturday's game, Florida head coach laughed, saying it wasn't so much of a challenge as much as the coaches telling Patton that the team desperately needed him to become an impact player.

"Sometimes when you know your opportunity is there to be a player, your urgency picks up," Muschamp said. "I saw that with Solomon. He's not just a speed sweep guy. He's not just a specialty guy. He's having a special year."

Patton showed that progress on Saturday. He set a career high with 124 yards and two touchdowns. It was his second 100-yard receiving game of the season after also doing it to Miami in the second game of the season. Patton also became the first Florida receiver to catch two touchdown passes in a game since Riley Cooper did it against Georgia in 2009.

"It was just a great feeling to be able to perform like that in front of all those fans," Patton said. "We haven't had a night game in two years, so it was a great feeling to perform like that. I've come a long way and still have a lot of work to do.

"The offseason had a lot to do with it. Watching film, I had to take that stuff to the practice field and then take it to the game."

His big game on Saturday came with help from quarterback Tyler Murphy, who threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Murphy's ability to use his legs and keep plays alive while avoiding sacks was important, especially on Patton's first touchdown in the two-minute drill.

Murphy stepped up in the pocket and threw a perfect pass to Patton, who was wide open after a curl route. After he turned around and made his way toward the end zone, Patton made a man miss and was off to the end zone. His speed is special, but his moves after the catch are just as impressive.

"He's a slippery guy," Muschamp said. "One missed tackle and it could be the distance. When you're able to have guys that can make plays like that, it changes your thought process as a defensive coordinator. Playing all that man-to-man and bump-and-run is great until you miss a tackle -- and then there's nobody left. We've put that in minds of defensive coordinators.

"If he gets a step, you have a hard time catching him. Our guys can't catch him, and we can run."


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