It was yet another ugly, and somewhat lucky, victory for the Florida Gators Saturday afternoon inside the Swamp. A late touchdown knotted up the game against Louisiana-Lafayette at 20-20 with the looks of overtime coming. A blocked punt by Loucheiz Purifoy and subsequent scoop and score from Jelani Jenkins gave the Gators a 27-20 victory.
Florida defense started the game hot when Sherrif Floyd forced a fumble from Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Harry Peoples on the game’s first drive. Florida linebacker Jon Bostic recovered the ball at the Ragin’ Cajun 28. The Gator offense could not capitalize on the excellent field position and had to settle for a Caleb Sturgis 38-yard field goal to give Florida an early 3-0 lead.
The two teams traded punts before Louisiana-Lafayette put together a 53-yard drive which led to a Brett Baer field goal to tie the game at 3-3. Ragin’ Cajun quarterback Terrance Broadway hit Darryl Surgent for a 48-yard completion to get many of the yards on the drive.
The score remained knotted at three until late in the second quarter when Florida was able to put together a nine-play drive that covered 85-yards in only 2:15 on the game clock. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel opened the series with runs of 10 and 22 yards and then completed passes to Omarius Hines for 11-yards, Quinton Dunbar for 9-yards and Jordan Reed for 30-yards. Driskel capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton to push the Florida lead to 10-3 with seven seconds before halftime.
Florida added another field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter. Hines rushed for 32-yards on the first play of the series, before the drive stalled, setting up 21-yard kick from Sturgis to push the Florida lead to 13-3.
Louisiana-Lafayette answered with a nine-play, 77-yard drive of their own. Peoples started the series with a 12-yard run and followed with catches of 5 and 19 yards. It was a pass interference penalty from Florida corner Loucheiz Purifoy that kept the drive alive and set up a Alonzo Harris two-yard touchdown run to cut the Gators lead to 13-10.
This was just the start of the positive momentum for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Their defense forced a Florida punt on the next drive, but Bradley Brown sprinted through the middle of the line a blocked the Kyle Christy punt. Blake Comminie scooped up the loose ball and returned it 22 yards for a Louisiana-Lafayette touchdown. The extra point gave the Ragin’ Cajuns their a 17-13 lead.
With Florida’s starting quarterback Jeff Driskel leaving the game in the third quarter and having to turn to backup Jacoby Brissett, a wild fourth quarter was sure to come. Louisiana-Lafayette opened the final quarter by driving down to the Florida five yard line. They had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Baer to push their lead to 20-13 with 13:11 left in the fourth quarter.
Florida’s offense continue to struggle and were forced to punt on their next two series. However, after playing the field position game with a stout defense Florida took over possession of the ball near midfield with 2:56 remaining in the game. Brissett quickly hit Reed for completions of 6 and 39 yards to set the Gator up at the three yard line. That is where Brissett his Dunbar in the end zone for a touchdown. The subsequent kick from Sturgis tied the game at 20-20 with 1:42 remaining in the game.
The Gators looked content heading into overtime deciding to use only one of their three timeouts on the next drive with thirteen-seconds to play in the game. Louisiana-Lafayette was set up to punt, but Purifoy made up for his earlier pass interference penalty when he exploded off the edge to block the punt. Florida’s Jelani Jenkins scooped up the ball and returned it 36-yards for the game winning touchdown with only two-seconds left on the game clock.
The 27-20 last minute victory pushed Florida’s record to 9-1 overall on the season as Louisiana-Lafayette dropped to 5-4. Florida hosts Jacksonville State next Saturday.