Everything looked great in the first quarter. Arkansas took a 7-0 lead on an amazing Jonathan Williams cut-back run, and it looked like the Razorbacks would be able to run all over the Gators. Alex Collins sprang a couple, and even Kiero Small ran up the middle for a quick 19 yards on the opening drive.
The biggest miscue of the quarter, a Brandon Allen fumble that was recovered by the Gators, didn't cause any damage as Dan Skipper blocked Florida's ensuing field goal attempt.
Everything was peachy.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Oh, and Arkansas is pushing us around at home. That's neat, Will.</p>— edsbs (@edsbs) <a href="https://twitter.com/edsbs/statuses/386636887034953728">October 5, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
After Florida kicked a field goal early in the second quarter, Brandon Allen threw a pick-six that was all-too similar to the one he threw against Texas A&M last week.
Arkansas pinned the Gators deep and forced them to punt out of their own end zone, and Arkansas took over at the Florida 46. With the Razorbacks in prime field position to start a drive, the Hogs opened with Allen missing a wide open Small for what would have been another first down, and the Hogs were stopped on second and third downs, ending a fantastic opportunity for Arkansas to answer.
But the punt after that three-and-out is likely to be the play people most remember from the game. Loucheiz Purifoy signaled for a fair catch but bobbled the ball, and bobbled it directly into an Arkansas defender standing nearby. The Razorbacks thought they had a turnover, but the officials penalized Arkansas for kick-catching interference, as the rule states a punt returner, once he signals fair catch, he has until the ball hits the ground to catch it before an opposing player can touch him or the ball.
This seems absolutely ridiculous for the very basic notion that the Arkansas player was standing in legal position, and the ball bounced off of Purifoy and into the Arkansas player (whose name I obviously can't remember and I apologize), and because the ball just happened to hit the player before it made its way to the ground, that's a penalty. If that is the correct interpretation of the rule, that's incredibly stupid. Even if the rule is that Arkansas couldn't take possession until it hit the ground, I can get that. But to tack on a 15-yard penalty? Insane. In fact, it seems like a loophole more teams should take advantage of.
But, regardless, the play occurred deep in Florida territory and didn't directly put any points on the board for the Gators, so, while it hurt, the play alone hardly forced the loss.
That being said, the reason that play became such a big deal is that instead of Arkansas having a first down in the red zone, Florida managed to drive the ball to midfield and hit a 51-yard touchdown pass with a few seconds left before halftime. Leading 17-7, the Gators got the ball first in the third quarter and scored again in eight plays to push the lead to 24-7, and the Hogs were completely deflated from that point on.
Arkansas couldn't get anything going in the second half. A week after only being flagged for one penalty against Texas A&M, the Razorbacks committed eight in Gainesville. On two occasions, Arkansas picked up a first down via Florida personal foul, only to commit a false start on the next play to start out in a 1st-and-15.
The overall stats were really not that different. Both teams earned 17 first downs, converted 38% of third downs, committed eight penalties, and Florida only outgained Arkansas in rushing yards by four yards.
The difference was clearly the quality of the two passing games. Florida only gained 240 yards through the air, but Tyler Murphy was a highly efficient 16-for-22. Meanwhile, Allen was an unimpressive 17-for-41 (41.4%). Some passes were off the mark, and seemingly several were dropped. They were the types of passes that weren't in perfect position, but still close enough that they were certainly catchable, and the receivers just weren't able to make plays.
The bigger issue is that only eight of the 17 receptions were to players designated to be wide receivers. Everything else went to running backs, fullbacks, or tight ends. That's not a unique situation for this season, and it speaks to struggles in the passing game that Arkansas' receivers aren't, well, receiving.
Several players began going down with injuries, including a nasty looking arm injury to Will Hines. Brandon Allen appeared to hurt his hand, and AJ Derby came in for a couple of plays but Allen came back. Travis Swanson and Hunter Henry also went down but appeared okay on the sideline.
Brandon Allen's jersey looked more like some sort of abstract post-modern art masterpiece than a football uniform by the time the game was over. He took a lot of hits, including a couple of roughing the passer penalties and two sacks (a third was waved off due to offsides). Twice Allen was hit on his blind side and fumbled (but one was the offsides). It's a night he'll want to forget.
And so will a lot of Arkansas fans.