Loucheiz Purifoy helped Florida’s defense batten down the hatches as long as it could Saturday, but there was no stopping Florida State’s juggernaut offense as it ripped through Florida Field.
In what is likely his final game with the Gators — Purifoy told ESPN that he plans to declare for the NFL draft this offseason — the cornerback intercepted a pass and made several other contributions for Florida. However, his efforts were not enough as the Gators fell to the No. 2 Seminoles 37-7 in front of a sellout crowd of 90,454.
“A very frustrating, difficult day that ends a very frustrating, difficult season,” coach Will Muschamp said.
In the week leading up to the game, several players maintained that the Seminoles’ offense — a unit that is statistically one of the elite groups in the nation — had not faced a defense that was comparable to that of the Gators.
Florida backed up its confidence with solid play early in the game.
During Florida State’s opening drive, Purifoy flashed the athleticism that will likely make him a first-round selection in the NFL draft by making an acrobatic interception of Jameis Winston. The pick was the second of his career and helped the Gators (4-8), who entered as four-touchdown underdogs to Florida State (12-0), limit the high-powered Seminoles to just a field goal in the first quarter.
“We’re the most physical team they’ve seen all year,” defensive end Jon Bullard said. “They just couldn’t handle it, but after a while they started to.”
The complexion of the game changed early in the second quarter.
After Purifoy helped pin Florida State deep in its own territory by downing a punt at the 4-yard line, the Seminoles marched down the field with a 12-play, 96-yard drive that was capped by an incredible 45-yard touchdown reception by former Glades Central star Kelvin Benjamin.
Benjamin later added the second of his three touchdowns by casting Purifoy aside and sauntering into the end zone for a 29-yard score. He later burned Purifoy again for a 56-yard reception.
“He’s got really good ball skills down the field,” Muschamp said of Benjamin. “The length is an issue.”
For Purifoy, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior from Pensacola, his up-and-down final performance served as a microcosm for his season — and career at Florida. His moments of brilliance often come with miscues that are often costly.
He finished the season with 24 tackles, seven pass breakups, two sacks and a pair of interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Arkansas. However, he was suspended for one game due to a violation of team rules and has been chided by the Florida coaching staff for being inconsistent at times.
Purifoy, who Rivals.com rated as a four-star prospect coming out of high school, is one of several Gators who have a choice as to whether they will declare for the NFL draft. Marcus Roberson and Ronald Powell are the two other most likely players to leave early, but few conversations have been had within the program to this point.
“That’s something I’ll discuss in the coming days,” Muschamp said. I’ve had some discussions with a couple of guys, but I don’t really want to comment at this time about that.”