Sunday, May 27, 2018
Colleges

Pregame plane crash leaves 2 injured

GAINESVILLE — A small plane that had been flying a banner during pregame festivities crashed at Flavet Field on the Florida campus — about a half-mile away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — on Saturday afternoon before the game against Arkansas.

Two people on the plane suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, and no one on the ground was hurt.

According to school officials, the propeller on the aircraft malfunctioned, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in the field that hosts tailgaters when the Gators play at home.

The plane eventually ended up in an area south of the band shell, an area littered with trees.

The accident did not alter pregame activities, and the game kicked off at 7 p.m. as scheduled.

MAKING IT COUNT: Florida junior CB Louchiez Purifoy has had an impressive career so far, but one thing was missing from his resume: an interception.

Purifoy remedied that in grand fashion with a 42-yard return for a touchdown that put the Gators up 10-7 with 8:33 remaining in the first half.

GAME-TIME PROMOTION: Two weeks ago, Florida coach Will Muschamp said he was opening up the kicking position after redshirt freshman Austin Hardin struggled. Hardin kicked well enough in practice leading up to last week's Kentucky game to keep his job.

But Saturday, after his 48-yard field goal was blocked, Hardin was replaced by Brad Phillips. The senior made a 28-yard field goal 3:49 into the second quarter to pull the Gators within 7-3. Entering the game, Hardin had missed three of his past four attempts, from 48, 53 and 41 yards.

RECRUITS AT STAKE: As first-year coach Bret Bielema focuses on building Arkansas' program, getting the type of players he wants is critical. Not surprisingly, some of those need to come from the state of Florida.

Freshman Alex Collins, whose 597 rushing yards entering Saturday led the SEC, is a Fort Lauderdale native. Bielema said he knows firsthand the type of talent the state produces.

"It's a big weekend for us in our recruiting wars and all that goes on there," said Bielema, who spent the previous seven seasons as Wisconsin's coach. "I've never played Florida. I played Florida State one time and Miami one time."

Bielema has help getting to know Florida. Linebackers coach Randy Shannon played and coached at Miami. And defensive line coach Charlie Partridge is a native of Plantation.

"Going back to 1993 when I first began (as an Iowa assistant), I think I've signed over 60 players from Palm Beach or Dade (counties). I've got players now that have kin that are cousins or brothers or whatever that are giving us players.

"So to go down there and beat one of the 'Big Three' would be a big deal because it gives Arkansas a little bit of relevance in the SEC."

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