Columbia, MO – Dan Mullen’s Gators improved to 9-2 on Saturday afternoon with a 23-6 victory over Mizzou. The loss was Missouri’s fourth in a row and their first at home. With the win, Florida kept their hopes for a trip to the SEC Championship in Atlanta alive.
Florida just needs Georgia to lose each of their next two games against Auburn and Texas A&M. Even if that doesn’t take place, the Gators ended a two-game slide against Mizzou, a feat that has many Gators’ fans breathing a sigh of relief.
For the second week in a row, the Florida defense kept their opponent out of the endzone. For a unit that has three shutouts on the season, this was another impressive outing. In fact, for all of the scorn that the fanbase has had for Todd Grantham, his defense is one of just two units in the nation to allow fewer than twenty touchdowns on the season. They’ve given up seventeen. The other team, Clemson, has allowed fourteen.
As expected with the early kickoff, the game started slow and it took the Gators a while to find their rhythm. The opening possession ended with a 47-yard Evan McPherson field goal. The Gators nursed that 3-0 lead for much of the first half until Mizzou’s Tucker McCann bounced a 37-yarder off of the left upright and between the posts to tie the game midway through the second quarter.
Much of the Gators’ slow start had to do with tight coverage by the Tigers’ secondary and the eight havoc plays that were allowed by Florida’s offensive line and saw Kyle Trask sacked four times. Despite Mizzou’s early success, The Gators answered quickly to the Tigers’ game-tying field goal with one of their own. McPherson gave Florida a three-point edge with a 39-yard kick.
Much like last week’s rout of Vanderbilt, the second half was a more productive one for the Gators offense. Kyle Trask connected with Josh Hammond from 34 yards out for the Gators’ first touchdown of the day. The second came later in the third quarter on a beautiful pass and catch in coverage by Lamical Perine.
Kyle Trask continued his successful season, completing 23/35 for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Somewhat uncharacteristically, Trask made several throws that should have been easily intercepted but came away unscathed. You may be able to chalk those throws up to the pressure that Mizzou was able to apply for much of the game.
Between the tandem of Trask and Jones, eight different receivers were targeted. Most notably was the emergence of Van Jefferson who has been somewhat quiet this season. Jefferson was targeted three times in the first three plays of the game, dropping one. He completed the day leading all Gators receivers with six receptions for 82 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Florida kept Mizzou’s offense in check all afternoon. Kelly Bryant was limited in the passing game, averaging just 5.2 yards per completion. Bryant completed 25 of 39 passes for 204 yards with an interception to close out the game.
The Tigers have gone 0-5 in games when they have rushed for fewer than 165 yards. On Saturday, the Gators stymied any hopes of a win by limiting Mizzou to a mere 52 yards on the ground for a 1.8-yard per carry average.
The Gators were in the Missouri backfield all afternoon, recording ten tackles for loss. Half of those belong to Florida’s star edge-rusher, Jonathan Greenard. Equally important to the Gators’ defensive success was punter, Tommy Townsend. Townsend had eight punts on the day for 366 yards, including a 71-yarder that pinned the Tigers deep.
As the SEC season comes to a close, Florida has an outside chance at winning their division. However, even if they don’t, they can hold their heads high having improved over last year’s phenomenal finish. They defeated Mizzou and have placed themselves in prime position to finish with one more win than they had last season and another New Year’s Six bowl game to boot. They will have a week off to prepare for their end of year meeting with the Florida State Seminoles. But for today, it’s great to be a Florida Gator.