Defense carries the Florida Gators over Missouri Tigers

The Tigers’ opening drive had the Florida defense scrambling.

The Gators had two coverage busts, allowing freshman quarterback Drew Lock to hit passing plays for 32 and 19 yards. Those were two of the four longest plays for the Missouri offense on the night. Russell Hansbrough added runs of 23 and 26 yards, but the Florida offense taking an early lead forced the Tigers to throw, giving Hansbrough just nine carries on the night.

The Florida defense was scrambling. After Lock hit J’Mon Moore for 32 yards to give Missouri the ball at the Florida six-yard line, the Gators did what they’ve done so many times this year on defense. They collected themselves and held the opponent to a field goal.

“We kind of held serve and then took off from there,” McElwain said on his postgame radio show.

The Florida defense allowed 62 yards on Missouri’s opening drive. For the rest of the game, the Gators allowed just 195 yards.

The key number was on third downs. Florida went 7-18 on third-down conversions while Missouri was held to 1-14. The one third-down conversion Missouri was able to muster came with 36 seconds remaining in the game. When the Gators forced Lock into a third and long situation, he wasn’t able to beat them.

The true freshman got antsy on a third down midway through the second half. He felt the consistent pressure from the Florida pass rush, and Lock tried to throw a quick out to the sideline. Instead, Florida sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor jumped the route and intercepted the pass, returning it 40 yards for his second interception returned for a touchdown this year.

Marcus Maye had the first interception of the game in the second quarter. The redshirt junior dove and made an impressive grab off an errant Lock throwing, picking the ball off before it hit the ground and corralling it against him body.

“We’re doing a pretty good job offensively not giving it to them,” McElwain said, noting that the defense did their part by forcing turnovers. “You do that, and that’s how you win ballgames. It’s been good so far.”

It was another statement performance for a Florida defense that has allowed zero touchdowns in two SEC road games and just one touchdown in its last eight quarters.

“When they focus and don’t get silly,” McElwain said about his defense’s strong performances. “What do I mean by that? Sometimes they lose focus on the prize, which is what we do on Saturdays. I haven’t seen that much of it lately. They’re tuned in, locked in and challenging each other. It’s fun to watch. They play the game fast, too. They’re definitely one heck of a unit.”

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