GAINESVILLE — When Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending injury Sept. 21 against Tennessee, receiver Solomon Patton said he was among a handful of teammates who could sympathize.
Patton was amid a solid season in 2012 when a broken leg against Georgia ended his season. He said he vowed to make the most of his playing time when he returned.
Saturday night, he continued to keep that promise.
The senior had a career game, including two touchdowns of more than 30 yards, to help lead the No. 18 Gators to a 30-10 victory over Arkansas at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
It was the first night game for Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC) in Gainesville since 2011. And it was the Gators' ninth consecutive win in the series and 10th consecutive home win.
It was billed as an old-fashioned, smash-mouth contest between teams that are a throwback to SEC days of old. But in the end, it was a key defensive play and two big-time offensive plays between Patton and quarterback Tyler Murphy that turned things for Florida.
Patton, who caught six passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against Miami last month, had six for a career-high 124 while Murphy was 16-of-22 for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
In the early going, Arkansas (3-3, 0-2) executed its game plan just as it hoped. The Razorbacks entered with the SEC's second-leading rusher — freshman Alex Collins, who had four 100-yard rushing games among his first five — and hoped to dominate with its running game.
And the Razorbacks outgained the Gators 81-14 on the ground in the first quarter. Collins had 41 yards on four carries. (He gained only 13 more yards on nine carries for the rest of the game.)
Arkansas also scored first, taking a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard run from Jonathan Williams with 2:09 left in the first quarter.
Trailing 7-3 after Brad Phillips' 28-yard field goal early in the second quarter, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy turned the momentum for the Gators.
When Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen attempted a pass to receiver Keon Hatcher, Purifoy stepped in and grabbed the interception, returning it 42 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 Florida lead with 8:33 remaining before halftime. It was the first career interception for the junior, who also recorded a sack and forced fumble.
Then with 1:42 remaining in the half, Florida orchestrated a six-play, 75-yard drive. It ended with a short pass from Murphy to Patton, who weaved his way to a 51-yard touchdown with 20 seconds remaining to give Florida a 17-7 halftime lead.
Arkansas never recovered.
The Razorbacks had just 30 yards of total offense in the second quarter — 7 passing — and Collins had just 10 yards on four carries.
The Florida defense, which entered leading the SEC in multiple categories, was again stellar after first-quarter adjustments, which has become the norm this season.
The Gators have given up just 12 points in second and third quarters this season, and with 7:49 remaining in the game, the Gators had forced Arkansas into four straight three-and-outs.
Arkansas had just 36 rushing yards in the second and third quarters. The Gators also had a late goal-line stand, holding Arkansas on fourth and goal from the 3 yard line with 59 seconds remaining.
The Gators played much of the second half without starting center Jon Harrison, who was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected midway through the third quarter. According to the SEC, Harrison will not have to miss next week's game at LSU because of the ejection.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @TBTimes_Gators.