Updated: Mar 26, 2020
‘My first true heart-stopping moment and experience with the Florida Gators … I was hooked.’
This is the first of a series in Gator history as GatorBait takes a stroll over the past decade, examining and remembering one era at a time. Kassidy Hill sets up next week’s debut of Florida Football Flashback where she will recall moments, plays and seasons to commemorate 2010-19. Next week the entire GatorBait staff dives in on the most recent 10 years.
By KASSIDY HILL
Jelani Jenkins’ touchdown off a Loucheiz Purifoy punt block against Louisiana Lafayette in the final 13 seconds to score a 2012 victory in what should have been an easy win…that’s the play that I kept reliving. I was sitting in the small airport in Mobile, Alabama, having just left my family’s day after Christmas celebrations and preparing to go to Miami for the Florida Gators 2019 Orange Bowl against the Virginia Cavaliers. I was excited and ready to make it to South Florida for the marquee matchup, but couldn’t help but think, was it worth it all to leave my family, time and again during holidays, miss out on special events and not spend as much time with them as possible?
But Jelani Jenkins’ touchdown off a Loucheiz Purifoy punt block against Louisiana Lafayette in the final 13 seconds to score a 2012 victory in what should have been an easy win…that’s the play I kept re-living. It happened on my mother’s 50th birthday. I got up at the crack of dawn the next morning and drove back to Alabama to celebrate late but if I had gotten there when the rest of the family did, I would have missed Jelani Jenkins’ touchdown.
I was standing in the northeast corner of the northeast endzone, filming the game for WCJB TV20, the Gainesville ABC station and my employer at the time. Florida was No. 6 in the country during that game and hoping to be the benefactor of other losses to work their way back into the BCS National Championship. Of course that meant taking care of their own business as well. But tied at 20 with 0:13 to go against a team that was for all intents and purposes a cupcake was not taking care of their own business.
The Rajin’ Cajuns were facing a 4th and three from their own 34 and understandably elected to punt. The Gators — led by Will Muschamp at the time — lined up clearly letting their opponent know they were coming for the punt. And yet Loucheiz Purifoy still came flying through easily unblocked, the corner using his speed to get to the foot of the punter and pop the ball up. It landed safely in Jenkins arm’s and from there the linebacker had open grass all the way to the endzone.
From my perspective, I saw Purifoy first. Saw him fly through with ease, bring his hand down at a perfect arc to meet the ball as it came off the punters foot and I watched as the ball sailed upwards and backwards. I didn’t see Jenkins until he was crossing the pylon. By then near the entire team was trying to come off the sidelines to celebrate with both men.
It was my first full game in The Swamp and my first true heart-stopping moment that I was able to experience up close with the Florida Gators. I was hooked. As a journalist, the opportunity to be a part of helping fans make sense of it or—even better—be the one to describe it for those that might have missed seeing it live. It felt like the highest privilege for a sports junkie like myself.
Since then I’ve been cataloging those moments, those games and those players. And as I sat in the Mobile airport that evening, preparing for a flight to see what would become yet another iconic Gators game, I began making a list, starting with that Jenkins touchdown. I’ve been covering the Gators since that 2012 season and I’ve seen a lot.
The 2010’s weren’t the most exciting for the Florida Gators, relatively. But the sheer amount of talent that came through Gainesville during that time produced moments that will live for many Thanksgivings to come.
Over the next few weeks, we want to re-live some of those moments with you. We’ll recap as many as possible, taking a deep look into one each week, taking a quick look at some others and then letting you — the fans — tell us what some of these moments were like for you.
We’ll highlight everything from the end of the Urban era, the defensive standouts of the Muschamp era, the wacky and unbelievable strokes of luck during the McElwain era, punctuated by that one incredible 2015 Ole Miss game. And wrap up with the two seasons that Mullen brought to finish the decade, chock full of highlight worthy plays and players.
We’ll also head across the street to give proper credit to the 2014 men’s basketball team that went undefeated in league play and made it to the Final Four. We’ll examine one of the greatest singular moments in Gator basketball history, when Chris Chiozza hit a March Madness buzzer beater. We’ll take time to recap the night Billy Donovan picked up his 500th win.
The Florida Gators are dominant in so many sports though so stick around for a look into some of the finest moments from McKethan Stadium, the back-to-back softball national championships, the swimmers who have set world records and the track and field stars who have sped past every competition.
And so, so much more. Stayed tuned for Florida Football Flashback, Part 1, coming here next week: The Legend of Train Right Jill, Big Ben In.