- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida avoided one of the worst losses in school history by making a huge play on special teams in the closing seconds. The Gators’ offense -- as usual -- struggled but came through late with a game-tying touchdown drive.
Here are the good and bad from the 27-20 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette:
Purifoy, Jenkins come through: If there was any doubt that CB Loucheiz Purifoy is Florida’s best special teams player, it’s gone after what he did Saturday. Purifoy got his hand on Brett Baer's punt and LB Jelani Jenkins caught the deflection and returned it 36 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Purifoy came off the edge of the formation and got to Baer untouched for his second block in as many weeks. The Gators used a variation on their punt block formation that special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin devised. The play also gave Durkin and the Gators some vindication after having a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown in the third quarter.
So did Brissett: Backup QB Jacoby Brissett was thrust into action when starter Jeff Driskel suffered a sprained right ankle late in the third quarter. Brissett needed a few drives to get into the flow of the game and he delivered late in the fourth quarter with the game-tying touchdown drive. He noticed a blown coverage and hit TE Jordan Reed for a 39-yard gain to the ULL 3-yard line and then threw a 3-yard TD pass to a diving Quinton Dunbar with 1:42 remaining. Brissett finished 6-for-8 for 64 yards. Driskel’s status for Saturday’s game against Jacksonville State is uncertain, so Brissett could make his first start since the Auburn game last season.
Resolve: It isn’t always pretty, but the Gators keep finding ways to win games. UF was down two starters on the left side of the offensive line, struggled to move the ball against one of the nation’s worst defenses, gave up five sacks, had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown, lost its starting quarterback in the third quarter – and yet still walked away with a victory. The Gators have done that over and over again this season. There’s a belief on the team that no matter what happens, they’ll make a play or two when needed. Even in the loss to Georgia, the Gators had a chance to tie the game in the final minutes despite having five turnovers to that point.
Offensive issues remain: The offense continues to sputter and there’s nothing that can be done to fix it this season. The line has struggled in pass protection and opening holes in the running game, the receivers are having a hard time getting open, and the QBs are holding onto the ball too long. Even when coordinator Brent Pease comes up with a creative wrinkle that should work -- the tight end pass near the goal line -- the Gators botch it. The best strategy is just to get through this season and see if additional personnel on the line and the incoming class of receivers can help.
Special teams gaffe: This is a perfect example of how one missed assignment can ruin a play. The blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown was simply DT Omar Hunter missing a block. ULL’s Bradley Brown beat Hunter by faking right and going left, and Hunter couldn’t recover in time to keep Brown from getting to Kyle Christy.
Penalties cost Gators: The Ragin’ Cajuns are one of the few teams to have success offensively against the Gators in the second half. They had a pair of 77-yard scoring drives, but the Gators gave them a lot of help, too. UF committed penalties on two third downs in ULL’s first scoring drive and committed another on ULL’s second scoring drive. All of them wiped out incomplete passes that would have resulted in punts.
5dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough
9dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf