The Florida Gators continued their impressive season with another underwhelming performance against the new guys on the block the Missouri Tigers. As has been their M.O. all season the Gators did some good things, did some not so good things, but overall did just enough to win the game.
The biggest question coming in was how would the players respond to the tough loss last week that all but took them out of contention in the SEC Eastern Division. The answer was mixed.
They played well defensively against the quick passing, up-tempo offense that Missouri runs getting four turnovers and only giving up one touchdown and 7 points for the game. Despite allowing Missouri to consistently drive into Florida territory in the second half, the defense created turnovers and blocked a field goal to keep them off the board.
Offensively, the Gators struggled to maintain any kind of consistency all afternoon but to their credit were able to convert a couple of short drives for touchdowns which proved to be the difference in the game. Once again, they didn’t do a lot but did just enough to get the victory.
If the 1996 team was a Lamborghini, the 2008 team was a Hummer, the 2006 was a F-250 Dooley diesel, then this team would be a Kia Rio. Safe, efficient, and will get you across town but definitely not fast, powerful, nor sexy.
To the staff’s credit they did try to change things up a little offensively. They came out throwing the ball early, they threw more on first down then they have all season, they ran some screens and quick passes but overall they were still inconsistent. After starting with the no-huddle and throwing the ball effectively on their first series, they inexplicably got away from it and never went back.
The Gators ran the ball effectively on the day running 33 times for 177 yards and had some good plays in the passing game but their biggest issue was their 3rd down efficiency, or rather lack thereof. The Gators offense finished 2-13 on 3rd down for only 15 percent obviously their worst 3rd down performance of the season.
The Gator defense played a great game overall. They gave up some yards in the passing game and were gashed a few times on quarterback scrambles and some inside draws but they were able to get pressure, played tight coverage in the secondary, and got the turnovers they needed to keep the Tigers from scoring in the second half.
James Franklin is a veteran quarterback in this offense and Missouri has big receivers who are excellent route runners but to the db’s credit they played good tight coverage all afternoon. They kept receivers in front of them and never allowed the Tigers to make big plays in the passing game. They stayed patient when Missouri was moving the ball consistently in the second half and then took advantage when Franklin made some poor throws to turn the ball over.
Special teams was a mixed bag as well. Having been consistently great all season, they were less than stellar against Missouri. With Caleb Sturgis nursing an ankle injury, the Gators finished 0-2 on field goal attempts. Sturgis tried to play through the injury attempting a 47 yard field goal in the first half but the kick was low and was blocked by interior lineman Sheldon Richardson. Backup Brad Phillips missed a chip shot 24 yarder late in the fourth quarter. The miss came after Jon Bostic intercepted a James Franklin pass and would have made it a two possession game.
Punter Kyle Christy who has been one of the nation’s leaders all season had perhaps his worst game of the season averaging only 41 yards per punt on 8 punts including a season low 19 yarder which was shanked off his foot. To his credit he was able to pin the Tigers back inside their twenty several times and kept Missouri’s fantastic returner Marcus Murphy from being effective allowing him only two returns for 22 yards.
With Andre Debose out for the game, the return game was almost non-existent repeatedly giving up yardage by not fielding punts. The biggest positive on special teams, however, was the big field goal block by Loucheiz Purifoy, the Gators third or the season, who continues to make a name for himself as a special team standout.
Overall it was a solid, if unspectacular win by the Gators much like the others this season. Not attractive, but effective. As a result the Gators go to 8-1 on the season overall and finished conference play 7-1. They still technically lead the SEC East by a half game as Georgia still has Auburn to play next week. With the tiebreaker though Georgia simply needs to win against a lowly Tiger team to clinch the East and take on likely West winner Alabama in the SEC Championship game.
Next up for the Gators is the homecoming game next Saturday in the Swamp against Louisiana-Lafayette. Expect the Gators to be huge favorites in that game.
Once again the Gators used Muschamps plan of running the ball effectively, passing the ball efficiently, and relying on tough defense and great special teams. That’s been the formula all season for these Gators and once again it was effective against the Missouri Tigers.