No. 1 Gators escape Razorbacks

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Caleb Sturgis’ 27-yard field goal proved the game winner as Florida escaped with a 23-20 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks in Southeastern Conference football.

The Razorbacks, 3-3, dropped to 1-3 in SEC play while Florida at 6-0 continued its school-record winning streak at 16 straight games.

"We’ve grown a lot of confidence in ourselves, in each other and in what we’re trying to do." Razorback coach Bobby Petrino said. "It’s hard coming out just a little short, but we competed hard and gave it everything we had.”

After almost three quarters of defense, the final 15 minutes became an offensive shootout with the last team holding the ball left with the chance to win it all.

The No. 1 ranked Florida Gators got that chance when the Arkansas Razorbacks missed a 37-yard field goal attempt with 3:08 left in the game. Taking over at his own 21 yard line, Gator Heisman Trophy quarterback Tim Tebow marched the length of the field for the winning field goal.

Forcing four turnovers and racking up a season high six sacks, the Razorback defense severely limited the SEC’s top offensive unit.

“I think our defense did really well," Petrino said. "Obviously Tebow is a threat, but he doesn’t go 60 and 70 yards for a touchdown. That was our plan going in. Our guys ran really hard with the ball and that’s why they fumbled-because we play hard and tackle.”

Even with several key players sidelined with injuries, Arkansas’ offense racked up almost the same amount of yardage.

Arkansas’ Dennis Johnson had his first 100-yard game, finishing with 14 carries for 107 yards. Greg Childs had four catches for 137 yards as the Hogs’ top receiver.

Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett closed the day with 12-of-27 for 224 yards and a touchdown.

“It hurt; we were right there with the number one team in the nation," Mallett said. "We have to take the positives from it; we came into this great environment and we rose to the challeng"

Defense dominated the first three quarters, leaving the two teams tied 13-13. The Gators tied the game on a record-setting touchdown pass by Tebow. Tebow finished with 255 yards in the air and 69 on the ground, accounting for 324 of Florida’s 391 total yards.

Mallett responded with a 75-yard touchdown strike to Greg Childs at the 9:40 mark of the fourth quarter. Mallett’s throw on the run out of the pocket found Childs streaking down the field. Childs weaved through the Gator secondary, but was hit at the goal line. The ball rolled forward into the end zone, and was covered by Childs. After a review, the touchdown stood and Tejada’s PAT put Arkansas back ahead, 20-13.

A pair of penalties aided a five-play, 67-yard drive for the Gators to tie the game on a 10-yard run by Jeffrey Demps at 20-20.

Razorbacks responded by driving back downfield to the Gator 21, but Tejada pushed the 38-yard attempt wide left with 3:08 to play.

Tebow kept Florida close, accounting for most of the Gators yardage. A pair of passes and one run from the senior quarterback moved Florida inside the Hog 20. DeQuinta Jones’ second sack of Tebow ended the touchdown threat, setting the stage for a career-long 51-yard field goal for Caleb Sturgis.

The Razorbacks stopped the Gator drive with the fifth sack of the game courtesy of Jerry Franklin. Heading into the game, the most sacks given up by Florida was only three and eventually yieled six to the Razorbacks.

While Arkansas could not move the ball, the defense produced another turnover when Rainey loses the ball to Tramain Thomas’ foot, who then covered the ball at the UF 29 yard line. Arkansas had a chance to score, but a 40-yarder by Tejada was wide left.

Tebow burned Arkansas on the next play, connecting with Deonte Thompson for a 77-yard touchdown strike. The career-long touchdown put Florida ahead for the first time, 13-10, with 2:59 left in the third.

Johnson stepped up with a pair of power runs to push Arkansas into Florida territory, first with a four-tackle breaking 21-yard run. Tejada’s 31-yard field goal send the game into the final quarter tied, 13-13.

Arkansas’ defense held the No. 1 Gators to only 129 yards and three points the first half, just 42 yards for the nation’s No. 2 rushing team. Meanwhile the Razorbacks continued their perfect streak of scoring when reaching the Red Zone.

Mallett on first down goes to Childs wide open at the Florida 30, complete for 47 yards to the Gator 22 yard line. Green’s 9-yard catch from Mallett moved the Hogs inside the Red Zone. Mallett fired it into the right flat for the first down to Jarius Wright at the eight. Tejada hits the 22 yard field goal to end the half, 10-3.

Tebow took things into his own hands with a pair of runs into Razorback red zone. Once again, Arkansas’ defense stiffened and forced Florida into a fourth down situation. This time, Sturgis 30 yard field goal at 1:40 before the end of the first half gave UF its first points.

Defense dominated the first quarter as a missed field goal by Florida represented the only scoring opportunity for either team.

“We had a chance to win in the first quarter, so we just have to work hard the second half of this season," Petrino said.

The No. 1 ranked team offense sputtered under Razorback pressure. Arkansas forced third and long on UF’s first four drives, ending two of them with sacks or tackles for loss, then picking up three fumbles from the Gators on others.

The defense delivered Arkansas’ first opportunity to score as Bequette sacked Tebow, then stripped him of the football for a turnover to the Razorbacks at the close of the first half. Zach Stradther covered at the Florida 31.

Razorbacks went to the ground game as Broderick Green broke into the endzone from the 19 yard line, but the play came back on a hold. Green got almost all the yardage back on a third down rush to the Gator six, setting up a fourth and one.

Petrino sent Mallett into the Gator line, picking up the first down at the five. Two plays later, Green punched it in from the one. Alex Tejada’s PAT made it 7-0 Razorbacks as Arkansas became the first team this season to score first on the Gators.

The Gators responded with a long drive, overcoming a pair of third and long plays and a fourth down conversion inside the Razorback 10 to even the score

Franklin covered the missed handoff between Tebow and Brandon James at the Razorback nine yard line to end Florida’s second significant drive of the game. Florida held Arkansas to three and out, and took over at the Razorback 34 yard line after the ensuing punt.

The Gators self-destructed inside the 10 for a second straight drive as Ramon Broadway covered the Aaron Hernandez fumble at the five yard line.

Razorbacks went into the game short-handed with starting running back Michael Smith out of the game with a leg injury, joining starting receiver Joe Adams in street clothes.

“Michael (Smith) really wanted to come out and play in the game," Petrino said. "We did everything we could to get him ready, but he wasn’t 100 percent. It wouldn’t have been fair to him or the football team to put him out there on the field."

Download: Ark-Fla Game Book.pdf