Florida’s 40-14 victory over Missouri proved once again that, unless you’re a fan of this game’s winning team, you should never watch these two teams play one another. From the time the Tigers entered the conference, every game in this series has been either a) exceedingly poorly played, b) a complete and total blowout, or c) both. Today falls under the latter category.
This game was over in the second quarter, when the Gators got a pair of field goals early and were gifted a pair of pick-sixes, each of which coming on unconscionable throws by Drew Lock. Florida went into the half up 20-0, and even that margin did not seem to give an accurate indication of the talent discrepancy between these two teams.
It was not all sunshine and roses for the new SEC East leader, however. Florida committed four turnovers, and had Missouri done a better job of holding onto the ball when the returning Luke Del Rio hit Tigers defenders in the hands, the Tigers may have had as many as seven takeaways.
However, as the game wore on, the better Florida’s offense looked. Part that should be attributed to Missouri’s offense keeping the defense on the field for nearly two-thirds of the game, but give credit to the Gator running game, who ended with a pair of 100-yard rushers in Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett.
With Tennessee’s loss to Alabama this afternoon, Florida controls its destiny the rest of the way, but things get much tougher from here. The World’s Largest Cocktail Party seems very winnable in a couple of weeks, but trips to Arkansas and LSU are looming. There are a number of things the Gators will need to clean up by that time if they want to make another trip to Atlanta, most notably doing a better job of hanging on to the football.
They have time to smooth those creases, however. Today was a good day to be a Gator.
With that said, as good as those Gators looked, today was more about Missouri’s weaknesses than it was about Florida’s strengths. The same problems we’ve seen in matchups against all of the Tigers Power 5 matchups reared their ugly head in this one.
For the first half of the half, you could definitely see an improvement on defense. After the debacle in Baton Rouge a couple weeks ago, the Tigers did a much better job of controlling gaps, making tackles and preventing the big play in the initial 30 minutes.
But as I said earlier, as the offense continued to go three-and-out, the defense began to tire and some of those bad habits reappeared. The second half was littered with missed tackles and broken coverages. Then again, I’m not really sure what the solution is if you’re forced to be on the field for 40 minutes a game.
Let’s talk about that Tiger offense, though.
Drew Lock put together the worst game of his college career thus far, which is saying something considering how the 2015 season went. His pair of pick-sixes were each throws that no quarterback should ever make. As soon as they came out of his hand, you knew six points were going up non the board for the Gators.
His receivers did not provide much separation, and the line did not always give him a lot of time, but Lock’s throws were consistently off the mark regardless of those factors, and any Missouri fan has to be discouraged after Lock showed so many flashes in the first month of the season. Just a rough, rough day for the sophomore QB.
To make matters worse (for Lock, ayway), Lock’s backup, Marvin Zanders, looked very effective at the end of this game, and it’s fair to wonder whether he deserves an increased role going forward. Yes, it was against the Gator backups, but when you compare his 99-yard touchdown drive at the end of the game to Lock’s failure to get a single first down until the end of the second quarter, you have to figure it’s worth taking a look at.
Either way, when you’re clinging to a late, garbage time touchdown by the backup quarterback as the silver lining in your team’s performance, you know it’s probably not a good sign for the team. The Tigers get Middle Tennessee at home next weekend for homecoming, but it’s unclear whether, for all this team’s early season optimism, the Tigers are actually noticeably better than they were a year ago.