You can tell this is the election season because Saturday night at The Swamp, Florida’s offense and special teams played like they had mailed in their game by absentee ballot.
You can’t hang Florida’s 42-13 loss to Missouri on a defense that played perhaps its best game of the season. Missouri’s only offensive touchdown came on a drive that covered a scant 19 yards, a gift of a benevolent offense that coughed the ball up six times. The Tigers got to the red zone two other times but only one on a sustained drive and both times the Gators forced the Tigers to settle for a field goal.
Florida outgained Missouri, 283-119, but more than half of those yards – 145 – came on scoring drives led by freshman Treon Harris long after the game had been decided. It was a nightmare of a game for starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, who completed 7-19 of his passes for only 50 yards. He threw two interceptions, one of which was run back for touchdown by Darvin Ruise in the third quarter, and he fumbled twice, one of which turned into a Missouri touchdown when Markus Golden scooped up the ball and ran it in.
The offense was bad, but special teams were worse. The Gators gave up a touchdown on the opening kickoff when Marcus Murphy ran the ball back 96 yards. Murphy later ran a punt back 81 yards for another touchdown. Additionally, four punt returns netted just six yards, six kickoffs were only returned 90 yards, there was a blocked extra point and punter Kyle Christy reverted back to the style that got him benched last year.
“At the end of the day, you’re not going to win many games turning the ball over six times and giving up two touchdowns on special teams,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said in his post game remarks.
So call it an unmitigated disaster.
Except on defense. On defense, the Gators were superb. Missouri’s only sustained drive was good for 55 yards and covered 18 plays but once the Tigers got into the red zone, they couldn’t move the ball and were forced into kicking a field goal. In the second half, Missouri managed only 24 yards of offense and only one first down.
Unlike last week against LSU, there were no coverage breakdowns. The Gators took away Maty Mauk’s targets, forcing the Missouri quarterback into a third straight pathetic game – just 6-18 throwing the ball for 20 yards, a mere 1.1 yards per attempt. The Tigers managed only 99 rushing yards but that was for only 3.2 yards per try.
Those are the kind of defensive numbers you win with. You win championships with that kind of defense, unless, of course, the offense and special teams fail to show up, which is exactly what happened Saturday night. This was a very winnable game. Missouri’s offense might be more inept than Florida’s, but the Gators played into the Tigers’ hands with the turnovers and shoddy special teams.
Once after a particularly frustrating loss by the Tampa Bay Bucs in their first couple of years of existence, the late, great John McKay was asked about the execution of his offense. McKay nimbly replied, “I’m in favor of it.”
Will Muschamp could have said the same thing about his offense and special teams Saturday night. Their no show cost the Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) any reasonable hope of winning the SEC East. Oh, the Gators could still capture the East, but it would take beating Georgia in two weeks as well as Vanderbilt and South Carolina, plus getting a whole lot of help. Missouri, 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC, remains in contention to win a second straight SEC East title.
MISSOURI 14, FLORIDA 0: Missouri jumped to a two-touchdown lead on a four-play, 19-yard drive that had its origins when Kentrell Brothers sacked Treon Harris, forcing a fumble that Michael Scherer recovered. Murphy got his second touchdown of the night on his third carry of the drive, a five-yard burst off the right side on second and goal. Baggett’s extra point made it 14-0 with 3:50 to go.
MISSOURI 17, FLORIDA 0: A 25-yard field goal by Baggett capped an 18-play drive that ate 8:30 off the clock. Starting in the first quarter, Missouri converted four third downs on the drive including a 19-yard scramble by Maty Mauk on a third and 17. The Tigers got a first and goal at the Florida one but a block in the back cost 10 yards and the Tigers couldn’t regain the momentum, settling for the Bagget field goal with 8:38 left in the half.
MISSOURI 20, FLORIDA 0: Another field goal by Baggett extended the Missouri lead to 20-0, a score set up by a Braylon Webb interception of a Jeff Driskel pass. Hit as he threw the ball, Driskel’s pass was an easy pick for Webb, who ran the ball back to the Florida five. The Florida defense did its part, pushing Mizzou back to its own 17, forcing the Tigers to settle once again for the field goal with 4:21 left in the half.
MISSOURI 28, FLORIDA 0: Special teams let the Gators down once again. When the Gators couldn’t move the ball on their first offensive possession of the second quarter, Kyle Christy came on to launch a 41-yard punt that Murphy fielded at the 19 where he made three Gators miss as he found a hole straight up the middle. Taking the ball to the east sideline, Murphy ran through an arm tackle by Christy and picked blocks at the Mizzou 45 and the Florida 34 en route to the seventh touchdown return (punts and kickoffs) of his career. The Tigers elected to go for two, pushing the lead to 28-0 with 13:01 left in the third quarter on a Mauk to Bud Sasser slant.
MISSOURI 35, FLORIDA 0: The Tigers got their first defensive touchdown of the night when Shane Ray, the SEC sack leader, beat D.J. Humphries off the edge and tossed Driskel like a rag doll, separating the Gator quarterback from the ball. Markus Golden, the bookend defensive end, scooped the ball up and took it back 21 yards for a touchdown with 7:25 to go in the third quarter.
MISSOURI 42, FLORIDA 0: Darvin Ruise gave the Tigers their second defensive touchdown of the game when he picked Driskel and ran it back down the east sideline 46 yards. Baggett’s extra point with 5:57 left in the third quarter finished off Missouri’s scoring for the night.
FLORIDA 7, MISSOURI 42: Following the Ruise touchdown pick, Harris took over at quarterback the rest of the game. He engineered a 9-play, 63-yard drive to prevent the shutout, hitting 3-3 of his passes for 31 yards and adding a 5-yard run that picked up a first down to the Missouri five. The touchdown came on a jump ball pass that Harris threw as he was in the grasp of a Missouri lineman. Surrounded by three Missouri defenders, tight end Tevin Westbrook managed to come down with the pass that looked like a pop fly. Frankie Velez kicked the extra point with 1:43 to go, preserving Florida’s string of 328 consecutive games since the last shutout, the longest active streak in the country.
FLORIDA 13, MISSOURI 42: Harris engineered a 15-play, 82-yard scoring drive that took 6:35 off the clock, taking the ball in for the touchdown from three yards out with 26 seconds left in the game. Brandon Powell carried eight times for 37 yards on the drive while Harris ran three times for 22. Harris had a 19-yard completion to Westbrook on the drive. Missouri added to Florida’s woes at the end by blocking the extra point.
Click here for your chance to win a TAILGATER wooden ice chest. A great looking piece of décor for any party. TAILGATER Wooden Ice Chest GiveawayPhoto Gallery: Florida-Missouri
Offense Abysmal in Blowout Loss
Will Muschamp: the Point of No Return