Following a slow start to their Saturday, the Florida Gator football team (5-1) won 40-14 at home against the Missouri Tigers (2-4), reclaiming the top spot in the SEC East and regaining control of their own destiny.
Gator head coach Jim McElwain says the Homecoming win was fun, first and foremost, as Florida got back to basics with some smash-mouth football.
For the first time since taking over at Florida, McElwain deferred after winning the coin toss — allowing Missouri to receive the opening kickoff. The decision to defer paid off and Florida’s defense set the tone from the beginning.
The Gators produced a scoreless first quarter after Eddy Pineiro missed a 32-yard field goal attempt on Florida’s opening drive. The Gators and Tigers traded punts as Mizzou went three-and-out in each of their first five drives. The Tigers finished with nine three-and-outs, a statistic that indicates how dominant Florida’s defense was.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Pineiro put the Gators on the board with a 53-yard field goal. Florida’s next drive saw Pineiro score again, this time a 24-yard chip shot following a 12 play, 70-yard drive.
Up 6-0, the Gators started a drive with 4:27 left in the half, but Mizzou’s Aarion Penton intercepted an under-thrown pass from Luke Del Rio that was intended for Brandon Powell.
Florida’s defense responded with a takeaway of their own as Jalen “Teez” Tabor jumped a receiver’s route for an easy 39-yard pick six, making the score 13-0. On Missouri’s very next drive, Quincy Wilson added an interception of his own, taking quarterback Drew Lock’s pass 78 yards to the house for another Gator defensive score.
When asked about his and Tabor’s interceptions, Wilson simply stated “We’re the best in the business.”.
With a 20-0 lead, Del Rio threw his second interception to John Gibson before the end of the first half. Del Rio started the second half the same way, throwing another interception to Gibson on Florida’s first drive of the third quarter. Missouri took advantage of the field position and brought the score to 20-7, starting at Florida’s 46-yard line and putting together a scoring drive capped off by Josh Augusta’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Del Rio says his mistakes are correctable, and he’s going to work on making better reads moving forward. Del Rio finished 18-for-38, adding one passing touchdown along with three interceptions.
True freshman wide out Tyrie Cleveland added Florida’s first offensive touchdown at the end of the third, a 20-yard catch and run via Del Rio. Missouri’s third offensive turnover came when a low snap got away from Lock and linebacker Alex Anzalone dove on the ball. Lock finished the day with four completions on 18 attempts.
The Gators took over at Missouri’s 49-yard line before tailback Jordan Scarlett made the score 33-7 with a 33-yard touchdown run. The Gators nearly added another score to wrap up the fourth quarter, but a Jordan Scarlett fumble gave Mizzou possession on their own 1-yard line.
McElwain says the Gators could have run the ball more, but their game plan focused on improving the passing game. Despite going pass-heavy, Florida saw both Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett break 100 rushing yards — marking the first game since 2014 that two Gator tailbacks accomplished that feat.
The Tigers responded to the turnover with a 99-yard drive and made the score 33-14 after Ish Witter’s one yard touchdown run. Mizzou elected to try an onside kick, which landed in Antonio Callaway’s outstretched arms before he took it 44 yards into the end zone for Florida’s final score.
Looking forward, McElwain made note of eight false start penalties during the 40-14 win, stating that this upcoming bye week will be a good opportunity for his players to heal up and get better.