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Special Teams Help Overcome Miscues in Homecoming Win

It wasn’t the Homecoming rout many had hoped for, but it sure made for a fun one.  Jelani Jenkins returned a blocked punt for a touchdown with seconds left on the clock, and the sixth ranked Florida Gators (9-1, 7-1 SEC) came from behind late to beat the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns (5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) 27-20 Saturday afternoon in college football.

With time ticking toward zero in a 20-20 game, Louisiana-Lafayette lined up to punt, but couldn’t prevent cornerback Louichez Purifoy from blocking his second kick in as many weeks.  The ball fluttered right to Jenkins and the linebacker did the rest, catching the ball and racing 36 yards to the end zone for the game winning score.  But the fact the game was tied in the first place seemed improbable. Again, the Florida offense struggled to move the ball, penalties again playing a factor.  Florida was flagged for 10 penalties resulting in 79 yards, and Gator coach Will Muschamp, excited as he was over the victory, wasn’t happy about the lack of discipline in his postgame press conference.

Even without penalties, Florida’s offense struggled to move the ball until late in the first half.  After Florida recovered a fumble on the Cajuns first drive at the ULL 28, the offense moved seven yards and kicked a field goal. They preceded to punt the next four possessions before sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel and the offense clicked for a 9 play, 85 yard drive culminating in a Trey Burton receiving touchdown to end the first half with Florida up 10-3. But Driskel rolled his right ankle in the middle of the third quarter and after a Louisiana-Lafayette touchdown and a blocked punt for a toucdown the Ragin Cajuns took a 17-13 lead.

Jacoby Brissett replaced Driskel, and the offense continued to sputter, garnering two 3 and-outs with another drive killed by a holding penalty. But with three minutes left in the game and down by a touchdown, Brissett found tight end Jordan Reed in the middle of the field for 39 yards down to the 3 yard line, and followed it up with a touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Quinton Dunbar on the next play.

And the rest was well, Homecoming History.

Florida forced a 3 and out and with 13 seconds left, Louichez Purifoy, Jelani Jenkins and the Gators special teams came up gigantic, prompting an excited Muschamp to gush over his team’s character postgame.

It might not have pleased the fans to watch a 27-20 win over a Sun Belt conference team that gave up 50 to Arkansas State a few weeks ago, but the win is ultimately, all that counts.  And in a season where the Gators have racked up plenty of W’s, this one happened to be the most cardiac inducing yet.

Florida plays its final home game next week against Jacksonville State.

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