Saturday, January 20, 2018
Colleges

Purifoy finds his groove for Gators

GAINESVILLE — Loucheiz Purifoy sparked Florida with two defensive plays Saturday against Arkansas.

The junior cornerback recorded his first career interception — which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown — and forced a fumble during the No. 18 Gators' 30-10 win over the Razorbacks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Despite notching seven tackles, a blocked punt and a sack before Saturday, Purifoy, whom many NFL draft analysts predicted during the offseason would be a first-round selection, was inconsistent in coverage during his first three games.

The Pensacola native was suspended for the season opener against Toledo and missed the majority of the matchup with Tennessee on Sept. 21 because of a right thigh bruise.

But with Marcus Roberson (knee) absent for the third straight game, Purifoy was active from the start against the Razorbacks. After missing a tackle that allowed Alex Collins to rush up the middle for 28 yards, Purifoy atoned.

On the next play, a corner blitz on first and 15, he sacked Brandon Allen and forced a fumble that linebacker Michael Taylor recovered at the Arkansas 29. It was Purifoy's fifth forced fumble of his career.

"When I saw that he still had the ball in his hands, my eyes got big," Purifoy said. "I knew if I get to him … I'd get (the ball) out."

The Gators, however, didn't score when Austin Hardin's 48-yard field goal was blocked.

Purifoy made sure they scored in the second quarter.

On third and 6, Purifoy picked off Allen as he rolled out of the pocket. The pass was intended for Keon Hatcher, but Purifoy read the play and used blocks from linemen Leon Orr and Dante Fowler to reach the end zone.

Purifoy's 42-yard return gave Florida a 10-7 lead with 8:33 left in the second quarter, an advantage it would keep for the remainder of the game.

"I've seen that play a lot. I haven't seen him finish that play a lot," Florida coach Will Muschamp said. "I've seen him be in that position before. To finish that play, to create some momentum, to great that crowd going — the top came off the place when that happened.

"But I thought it was good pressure on the play; very good coverage. He was there to make the play."

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