Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Top 5 moments: Block party
By Michael DiRocco
Editor’s note: GatorNation is counting down the top five moments of Florida’s 2012 season this week. They could be plays, drives, quarters or decisions, but regardless of what they are, they are the significant moments that shaped the season.
We continue with No. 4: Block party
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Was Florida’s shot at possibly playing for a national championship going to be squashed?
Not by an SEC opponent, but by Louisiana-Lafayette?
At Florida Field?
Loucheiz Purifoy's blocked punt, which Jelani Jenkins returned for a touchdown, kept Florida's national championship hopes alive.
That was possible on Nov. 10. The game was tied at 20 with 1:42 remaining and the Ragin’ Cajuns taking over at their own 27-yard line. They needed only to get into position for a field goal to give Brett Baer, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist, a chance to hand the Gators perhaps the worst upset in school history. Instead, coach Mark Hudspeth decided to play for overtime.
That decision, plus three UF timeouts and Loucheiz Purifoy’s long right arm, kept the Gators alive.
After gaining only 7 yards in three plays, ULL lined up to punt with 13 seconds remaining. Purifoy came off the left side of the formation unblocked, got his hand on Baer’s punt, and Jelani Jenkins caught the ball and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown with just two seconds remaining.
"We certainly make it interesting," UF coach Will Muschamp said after the game. "It’s a football team that’s finding ways to win games."
The Gators shouldn’t have even been in that position though. UF had outscored ULL 206-35 in four previous meetings with the Ragin’ Cajuns, including a pair of shutouts. Even with backup QB Jacoby Brissett playing in the fourth quarter because of an ankle injury to starter Jeff Driskel, the Gators should have had an easy victory.
Instead, the offense managed just 162 yards passing and 311 total yards against a ULL defense that was giving up 294.6 yards per game passing and 433.2 yards per game in total offense, stats which ranked 114th and 89th in the nation, respectively.
ULL rallied from a 10-point deficit to take a 20-13 lead -- one touchdown came on a blocked punt return -- before Brissett led the Gators on a game-tying drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Quinton Dunbar with less than two minutes to play.
Then came Purifoy’s block, which turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the season. The Gators beat Jacksonville State the following week and then went on the road and beat Florida State to stay alive in the national championship race until Notre Dame's victory over USC hours after UF’s victory over FSU.
It also was instrumental in UF earning an at-large bid to the Allstate Sugar Bowl instead of spending New Year’s Day in the Capital One or Outback bowls.