Arkansas beats Florida 39-36 in OT to end a 6-game skid and win in the Swamp for first time
Sat, Nov 4, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - KJ Jefferson connected with Tyrone Broden for a 4-yard score in overtime that lifted Arkansas to a 39-36 victory at Florida on Saturday, ending a six-game skid for the Razorbacks and giving them their first win in the Swamp in six tries.
The Razorbacks (3-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) ended Florida's six-game winning streak at home and may have knocked the Gators (5-4, 3-3) out of bowl contention in embattled coach Billy Napier's second season.
Jefferson threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards and a score. Much of his damage came late, but the most memorable one was a 20-yard scamper in overtime in which he ran over several defenders. He found Broden for the winner two plays later.
Florida had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Trey Smack missed a 44-yard attempt wide right.
Florida's special teams were mostly a debacle, hardly a surprise given their season-long issues. The Gators botched an extra point in the third quarter and forced Smack's attempt to be 5 yards longer than expected because of an illegal substitution penalty.
The Gators had been looking to become bowl eligible again under Napier. Now, win No. 6 looks to be a long shot at best.
Florida's final three games of the regular season are at No. 13 LSU, at 14th-ranked Missouri and at home against No. 4 Florida State, a daunting stretch in which Napier's team could be double-digit underdogs in each game.
Arkansas looked like it would dominate early. The Razorbacks drove 75 yards for a touchdown on their opening possession and on the next play Jaylon Braxton returned a fumble 33 yards for a score after stripping Ricky Pearsall. It was 14-0 before the Gators had picked up a first down.
But Florida rallied and took advantage of several short fields to not only get back in the game but to take the lead in the second half.
Raheim "Rocket" Sanders finished with 103 yards on 18 carries in his return from a knee injury. Sanders sat out Arkansas' last two games and missed five of the previous seven. The preseason All-American selection ran for 1,443 and 10 touchdowns in 2022.
The Gators played without three defensive starters, including leading tackler Shemar James, defensive tackle Cam Jackson and defensive end Tyreak Sapp. Florida also lost Jack Pyburn and T.J. Searcy in the second half against Arkansas.
Arkansas receiver Andrew Armstrong, who had three catches for 103 yards, was slow to get up following a pass-interference penalty in the fourth quarter. Trainers rushed to Armstrong in the end zone, but he started moving his legs and eventually sat up and left the field without assistance. He did not return.
Florida wore all-black uniforms to honor members of the armed forces, veterans and first responders as part of a "saluting those who served" game. It's the first time the Gators have worn all black on the football field. The uniforms didn't have names on the backs of jerseys. Instead, they displayed core values: commitment, courage, excellence, honor and integrity.
Arkansas: Although the Razorbacks were previously winless in SEC play, everyone knew they were a few plays away from being above .500. They hung tough with LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama on the road - losing by a combined 13 points - and fell 7-3 to Mississippi State at home.
Florida: Napier's ultra-conservative ways seem to be wearing on his team's fan base. He was roundly booed several times, including once for burning 20 seconds off the clock before calling timeout and settling for a short field goal in the second quarter and again early in the third for calling a third-down run when backup Max Brown replaced Mertz for a play.
Arkansas: Hosts Auburn next Saturday.
Florida: Plays at No. 13 LSU next Saturday, the start of a daunting three-game stretch against ranked teams.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll"