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Florida Gators avoid upset, rally to beat Louisiana-Lafayette

GAINESVILLE — Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy was just trying to follow directions, linebacker Jelani Jenkins was just trying to follow his instincts, and the Gators were just trying to survive homecoming.

In a matter of 11 seconds Saturday, all three were accomplished.

With 13 seconds remaining and the score tied at 20, Purifoy came off the edge and reached his right hand out as he ran past Louisiana-Lafayette punter Brett Baer, making contact with the ball. Jenkins caught it on the fly in midstride and raced 36 yards for a touchdown with 2 seconds left, giving No. 7 Florida a 27-20 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium over the 27-point underdog from the Sun Belt Conference.

"I was just like, 'Run, Jelani. Please run, just get in the end zone so it will be over,' " said Purifoy, a sophomore from Pensacola. "They called 'black', that's when everybody goes to block the punt. I just stuck my hand out and got it on the ball and saw Jelani going for the end zone."

"It was a great play by Loucheiz," said Jenkins, a redshirt junior who had a team-high seven tackles, all solo. "He executed it perfectly, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I was surprised I happened to be there. It came right to me. I just tried to run as fast as I could."

Jenkins' touchdown capped off a dramatic comeback for the Gators (9-1), who scored two touchdowns in the final 1:42 to earn their second fourth-quarter comeback win this season.

The outcome in front of 86,482 helped overshadow a day in which UF again struggled mightily on offense (162 passing yards against the nation's 114th-ranked passing defense plus five sacks allowed for 24 yards), were penalized 10 times for 79 yards — several keeping ULL drives going — and lost starting quarterback Jeff Driskel to a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter.

Then late Saturday, more bad news for the Gators: Georgia 38, Auburn 0. That clinched the SEC East for the Bulldogs by virtue of a tiebreaker, Georgia's 17-9 victory over UF on Oct. 27 being the difference.

Against ULL (5-4), the Gators gained just one first down on consecutive fourth-quarter possessions, but their defense kept them in the game. Florida held the Ragin' Cajuns to 267 total yards and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd forced a fumble that led to a 38-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis in the third quarter.

Then with the Ragin' Cajuns on the UF 7 with first and goal early in the fourth, the defense held them to a 22-yard field goal instead of a touchdown that would have made the score 24-13.

When Florida took over with 2:56 remaining, backup Jacoby Brissett, who lost the starting job to fellow sophomore Driskel at the beginning of the season, led a four-play, 49-yard touchdown drive that included a 39-yard pass to tight end Jordan Reed. Brissett's 3-yard score to Quinton Dunbar tied it with 1:42 remaining.

"That's what you dream about, no matter who it is against, for the last drive to come down to you," Brissett said. "The saying, 'one snap away,' really is real."

It was the Gators' seventh come-from-behind victory this season and again showed the determination and resolve of this year's team, coach Will Muschamp said.

So what if it was against a non-BCS team that entered 0-26 all-time against the SEC, was paid $950,000 to be the traditional homecoming patsy, and hasn't beaten a ranked team in 16 years?

"A win is a win," Muschamp said. "Sometimes I feel like the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you catch a break, and sometimes you don't.

"Mark Hudspeth (ULL's coach) said to me at the end of the game, 'Great teams find ways to win games, and you've got a great football team.' I don't know if I'd stretch it that far, but we've got … guys that are playing together, that are playing for each other and have a strong belief in one another. They have a strong belief in what we're doing and where we're headed. The future is bright.

"I told the guys how proud I was to be their head football coach, and I mean that."

Florida Gators avoid upset, rally to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 11/10/12 [Last modified: Sunday, November 11, 2012 12:05am]
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