Florida’s 21-3 win over Missouri started with the opening drive. The Gators won the coin toss, and Jim McElwain believes in taking the football to open the game and set the tone. That’s exactly what Florida did, marching 12 plays for a 75-yard touchdown drive that was punctuated by a Kelvin Taylor one-yard touchdown run.
With only four running plays on the 12-play opening drive, the Gators were able to take a 7-0 lead.
Two drives later, it was an eight-play, 82-yard drive that put Florida in the end zone for a 14-3 lead. That drive featured more of redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier, throwing on four of the plays and adding a 10-yard rush on another. The balance on offense was just what the Gators needed to take a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.
“I thought we were good,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said on his postgame radio show. “We kept them off balance, we were moving and the rhythm was on task. Shoving that first touchdown in the end zone really helped.”
With the energy high at Faurot Field for Missouri’s homecoming game, the fast start was imperative for Florida. It’s why McElwain wanted to open the game with the ball even more than normal, and the players spent all week hearing about he importance of a fast start.
It offered a chance at redemption for Florida’s embarrassing 42-13 loss to Missouri, one the Gators were able to take advantage of on Saturday.
“Coach is always preaching fast starts, keeping playing hard and starting the game fast,” said Taylor, who ended with 99 rushing yards and two touchdowns. “I’d say that’s what we did today.”
Offensive lineman Trip Thurman added, “It’s something we pushed this week. It’s one of the things we started in practice, trying to start fast to get our tempo going. It really helps our defense out to start the game out.”
Grier did what the Gators needed to secure a road victory and the program’s first win over Missouri since 2012. He went 20-33 for 208 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, but the redshirt freshman didn’t have a turnover. In two Southeastern Conference road starts, Grier has just one turnover.
In the second half, McElwain said Grier went back to old habits of tucking the football and escaping the pocket before it was necessary.
“I thought he might have saw some ghosts there as the game worked on, and yet that’s what young guys do,” McElwain said. “We’ve got to get back in the film room.”
The second half wasn’t always pretty for the Florida offense. McElwain was frustrated in the fourth quarter that the offense wasn’t able to sustain drives and run the clock out. But more importantly, the Gators were able to escape Columbia with a win to move to 6-0 on the year.
“Sometimes when you win, people are going to pick this apart and think how bad we are. But you know what, I’d rather be bad and get a win than bad and lose. Our guys figured out a way to get it done.