GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — As Florida coach Will Muschamp walked out of the postgame interview area, he turned to Solomon Patton and said, “Stand up, Solomon, or they can’t see you.”
Not on this night, coach. Patton stood out.
Patton turned two short receptions into touchdowns, helping the 18th-ranked Gators beat Arkansas 30-10 Saturday night. The 5-foot-9 senior nicknamed “Solo” was pretty close to being a one-man show in the Swamp.
“He’s having a special year,” Muschamp said.
Patton finished with six catches for a career-high 124 yards. He also ran for a first down. But his longest gains went the distance and were key to Florida (4-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) winning its ninth consecutive game in the series and 10th in a row at home.
Tyler Murphy, making his first start at Florida Field, completed 16 of 22 passes for 240 yards and three scores — another efficient and effective outing from a fourth-year junior who couldn’t get on the field the last three years.
“I’m getting a lot more comfortable,” Murphy said. “It feels good.”
The Razorbacks (3-3, 0-2) ran the ball well early — against the league’s best defense — but fell behind on Loucheiz Purifoy’s interception return in the second quarter for a touchdown and faded from there.
“Obviously disappointed,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “It’s not a lot of fun. We had too many issues — dropped balls, a pick-six, a couple missed tackles that resulted in an easy 14 points for them. Playing a ranked opponent on their home turf, you can’t do those things and expect to win.”
Purifoy had a sack and forced fumble in the first quarter, extending Florida’s streak with a takeaway to 16 games. The Gators also have intercepted a pass in eight straight games.
Arkansas looked sharp for a bit, gashing the Gators on the ground and taking a 7-0 lead on Jonathan Williams’ nifty, cutback run. Williams started left, slammed into defensive end Ronald Powell, bounced out of the would-be tackle and then headed the other direction. He picked up a block from quarterback Brandon Allen and pretty much walked into the end zone for a 4-yard score.
But it was ended up being one of the few bright spots for Arkansas, which hasn’t beaten Florida since 1982 — a decade before the Razorbacks entered the SEC.
Things might be worse for the Razorbacks, too. Starting cornerback Will Hines broke a bone in his right arm and left the field on a cart, and starting center Travis Swanson re-injured a sprained knee.
Florida had one minor issue: center Jon Harrison was ejected for apparently making contact with an official. But he won’t miss next week’s game at LSU.
“He did something he shouldn’t have done,” Muschamp said, declining to elaborate.
Little else went wrong for the Gators.
Patton surely added to his highlight reel.
He got wide open on a 3rd-and-12 play with about 30 seconds to play in the first half, spun away from a defender and outran everyone else for a score that made it 17-7. He was equally elusive to start the third quarter. He took a short pass from Murphy, broke a tackle and scampered for a 38-yard score. His fourth touchdown of the season made it 24-7.
Florida has lacked offensive playmakers, especially at receiver, for years. But Patton, a speedy kid recruited to Gainesville by former coach Urban Meyer, is starting to look like a smaller version of Percy Harvin.
“It was a great feeling to be able to perform like that in front of all those fans,” Patton said. “I think I’ve definitely came a long way.”
So has Murphy, who has been better than expected in three games since replacing injured starter Jeff Driskel. His 9-yard shovel pass to Valdez Showers in the fourth quarter sent many of the Florida faithful home early and happy.
Florida’s defense was its typical dominant self. Although the unit allowed a season-high 115 yards rushing, most of those came in the first half.
Williams ran eight times for 32 yards. Alex Collins added 54 yards on 13 carries.
Allen completed 17 of 41 passes for 164 yards, with an interception and two sacks. He briefly left the game with a shoulder injury following a roughing-the-passer penalty against defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
Allen’s bigger problem was the pick-six in the second quarter. Purifoy broke on a poorly thrown ball and took it 42 yards the other way.
“We had a lot of things not go our way,” Allen said. “There were some big momentum swings that we couldn’t get back to our side. … Their defense is No. 1 for a reason. They have a lot of speed on defense.”