Florida took care of its business in Columbia with a workmanlike 23-6 win over Missouri that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The Gators didn’t play an entirely clean game, especially in the first half, but played hard, stayed focused, and proved their superiority over the Tigers with a dominant second half.
Kyle Trask once again was called upon to lead the offense despite no running game to provide any balance, and he did with 284 yards and 2 TDs, both in the 3rd quarter to essentially end the game. Van Jefferson was the primary target most of the afternoon and was open most of the day. Josh Hammond and Lamical Perine caught the 2 TS throws from Trask, with Perine making a great catch in traffic – especially good for a running back. Emory Jones received the most snaps he has in a meaningful game since Auburn, and responded with a handful of good runs to extend drives and one long completion to Kedarious Toney setting up a FG. The O-line again was pushed around trying to run block, but was able to give Trask just enough time to make some reads and get the ball out. They did allow 4 sacks, though mostly from inside rushes where the guard play has fallen off recently due to injury and inexperience.
The Gator defense made life miserable for the Tigers and QB Kelly Bryant all afternoon, repeatedly getting penetration into the backfield, harassing him on many throws, and getting 3 sacks and multiple tackles for loss. The front seven did a pretty good job limiting RB Larry Roundtree, but did get hurt by some designed runs and scrambles by Bryant that extended a few drives that led to their only points. The pass coverage in the intermediate zones was solid – TE Albert Okwuegbunam was held to 4 catches for 26 yards, and the tackling was better than it has been in weeks, limited yards after the catch. The improvement in coverage with Marco Wilson playing the Star position was immediately noticeable. Kaiir Elam got the most snaps he has all season at CB, while Trey Dean moved for Star to CB and at least looked more comfortable – I still think he may be better suited for safety. The safeties tackled well and didn’t allow any passes over the top.
Special teams were on point as they have been all season. Evan McPherson made all 3 of his FG attempts, Tommy Townsend averaged 46 yards on his punts with 4 placed inside the 20, and the kick coverage was solid.
Defense and special teams need to travel on the road in the SEC, and this was just another example of that. Missouri never had any momentum, and knew they would have to be more lucky than good to make anything happen as the game progressed.
Credit to Dan Mullen and his staff for having his players in the right mindset for this game. No need to look backwards at the embarrassing losses under Won’t Misschump, the Swamp Donkey, or even last year. No need to be concerned about the weather (it was fine). No need to read too much into Missouri’s home record which was built up against garbage teams. Just go out and play hard, and the better team (Florida) would win.
There are still a few goals to achieve for this year’s team – win 10 regular season games, beat F$U, and get into another New Year’s Six bowl game. The Gators have their 3rd bye week of the season to rest, get as healthy as possible, and throw everything they have at the Criminoles and beat those clowns down – again.
I’ll be back next week with my game preview. Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Gators!