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Arkansas beats host Florida 39-36 in overtime to end 6-game skid

Gators' bowl chances become slim
Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Chris Paul Jr. sacks Florida Gators QB Graham Mertz during first half, Nov. 4, 2023
Posted at 4:34 PM, Nov 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-04 20:17:08-04

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After celebrating wildly in the visiting locker room, dozens of Arkansas Razorbacks players returned to Florida Field to party some more. They hugged each other, high-fived family, friends and fans, took selfies and even posed for a partial team picture near the goal line.

This was one to savor for several reasons.

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.

"We played our hearts out for each other," Jefferson said. "It's been a frustrating season, but to be the first team to ever win here is something we can always hang our hat on."

The Razorbacks (3-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) stopped Florida's six-game, home-winning streak and may have knocked the Gators (5-4, 3-3) out of bowl contention in embattled coach Billy Napier's second season.

"I'm really proud of our team," Pittman said. "In this two week's time a lot of things went on in the program, and they kept in it. … You're either quitting or fighting in life. That's it. I'm really proud because we fought."

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.

Arkansas Razorbacks receiver Tyrone Broden celebrates game-winning TD in OT at Florida Gators, Nov. 4, 2023
Arkansas wide receiver Tyrone Broden, left, celebrates with teammates after he caught a touchdown to defeat Florida in overtime Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

"Part of what makes him a challenge is getting the guy on the ground," Napier said. "We struggled to tackle the guy. ... Very evident that his legs were a factor."

Arkansas finished with a season-high 481 yards after firing offensive coordinator Dan Enos and naming receivers coach Kenny Guiton the interim play caller two weeks ago. Guiton tweaked parts of the offense during the team's bye week, and the Razorbacks looked nothing like the team that averaged 227 yards in its previous four games.

Raheim "Rocket" Sanders had a lot to do with it. A preseason All-American who ran for 1,443 and 10 touchdowns in 2022, Sanders finished with 103 yards on 18 carries in his return from a knee injury.

Florida donned all-black uniforms to honor those who served, a somewhat fitting look for the darkest day in Napier's two seasons. The favored Gators rallied from a 14-0 hole early and a 30-26 deficit late. They had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Trey Smack missed a 44-yard field goal wide right.

It was the latest issue for Florida's special teams. 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. Florida's kicking team ran onto the field even though the offense was scrambling to line up to spike the ball with seconds left.

"There's no question there was confusion there," Napier said. "That one I haven't been around before."

The Gators probably needed a victory to make a bowl. But now, win No. 6 looks to be a long shot.

Florida's final three games are at No. 13 LSU, at 14th-ranked Missouri and at home against No. 4 Florida State, and Napier's team could be double-digit underdogs in each.

"This was a big deal to come to Florida and win," Pittman said. "There ain't but one first."