In a season flipped with low points, the players can’t find one lower than their loss to Missouri last season. The Tigers came to Gainesville during Florida’s homecoming and put the game away early, taking a 20-0 lead into halftime and stretching it to 42-0 before the Gators scored two touchdowns in the final 1:17 minutes of the game.
The 42-13 final haunted them. Players came off the field and joined together in the locker room, but it was different from other losses. There was nothing being said.
“I remember just a bad vibe,” Florida defensive end Alex McCalister said. “It was just real quiet. I don’t want that feeling again.”
Florida safety Keanu Neal added, "It was bad. It was quiet. You could sense guys kind of losing hope, giving up.”
The Florida defense allowed just 119 yards to Missouri, but it didn’t matter. Only one of the Tigers’ five touchdowns was scored by their offense, and that drive began at the Florida five-yard line because of a Jeff Driskel interception. The defense was the only unit that didn’t implode on that October night in The Swamp.
The offense was putrid. The special teams? Even worse. Missouri returner Marcus Murphy returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown, sucking any hope out of The Swamp early.
“That was probably the lowest point of the year,” McCalister said. “That was homecoming, we came in and just let that team take everything from us.”
Florida receiver Valdez Showers added, “I felt disrespected. It was really a slap in the face.”
Some of the Florida players downplayed the impact of that game on Saturday’s when the Gators travel to Columbia (7:30 p.m., TV: SEC Network). Others were more open that it hasn’t left their mind since the blowout happened last year. They remember being booed in The Swamp while hearing the “Fire Muschamp” chants that engulfed the stadium during the second half.
They felt embarrassed on their home field.
“It’s definitely a big game," McCalister said. "It was a big game on my calendar, going to Missouri and really taking it back from them. We gotta get back, definitely gotta get back and keep this thing rolling.”
When McCalister was told that this weekend is also Missouri’s homecoming weekend, the smile on his face got a little bigger.
“That’s even more perfect,” he said.