It's like a broken record for Florida this year, but it applies once again. The Gators' offense struggled, but the defense and special teams made enough good plays to carry the team to an ugly win. This time, they took down Missouri 14-7 at home in the Swamp.
Despite the fact that most people will focus on Florida after this one, it being the team with the better record and all, the two players who defined this game were both in black and gold.
One was Sheldon Richardson, the disruptive Tiger defensive tackle who made life miserable for Florida's offense all day. He was a constant presence in the Gators' backfield throughout, disrupting the rushing game and flushing Jeff Driskel out of the pocket on several occasions. UF even had a long touchdown pass called back because RG Jon Halapio had to basically tackle Richardson to keep him from hitting Driskel first.
The other was James Franklin, newly back from a knee injury that has kept him out of action for about a month. He was limited in his rushing as he wasn't 100%, but it was his constant mistakes with his arm that doomed the Mizzou offense. He had issues with throwing the ball too high all day resulting in four interceptions and a number of incompletions beyond that. The Tigers drove down the field as time ran out, but his fourth pick landed in the hands of Josh Evans in the back of the end zone with just five seconds to go. For an offense like Gary Pinkel's to work, the quarterback must be accurate. Franklin completed just 47% of his passes for 4.6 yards per attempt. They had little chance with such ineffective play from the signal caller.
That's not to say that Florida's offense did much better. It managed just 276 yards (compared to MU's 335), and both touchdowns were on long plays of 36 and 45 yards. Take out those two plays and Florida managed just 195 yards on 54 plays for an average of 3.6 yards per play.
Richardson deserves a lot of credit for that, but Florida's hailstorm of injuries helped out too. The Gators started without LT Xavier Nixon, and LG James Wilson and Halapio would leave before the game was over. WR Solomon Patton went out for the year after an injury last week, and fellow wide out Andre Debose didn't dress. Late in the game, the top two running backs on the depth chart, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown, along with the only fullback Hunter Joyer all limped off. Combine those with some defensive injuries, and the Gators are lucky they have two cupcakes in a row to heal up before Florida State.
But really, the UF offense is basically broken. Play the run in standard downs and blitz on passing downs and they can't do much of anything. We're past the point where Urban Meyer would have lost patience and started heavily rotating Trey Burton and Jordan Reed back at quarterback, but that's not how Will Muschamp rolls. What everyone saw this week, and last week, and the week before, and the week before, is what this offense is.
It's a testament to Muschamp's defense and D.J. Durkin's special teams that the Gators finished 7-1 in SEC play this season. As for Missouri, this was a very winnable game that slipped out of its fingers because Franklin played his D- game today. It's a tough way to go, but a team has to put its best players out there and run with it. It just wasn't good enough for the Tigers, which has been their story throughout much of SEC play this year.