Coming into Saturday’s matchup with the Missouri Tigers, the question on Florida Gators football fans minds was how would Florida respond this week after “getting their bellies rubbed” by the media?
Considering that Vegas predicted the Gators to win by six points, and they won by triple that amount, that should tell the nation that the Gators were mentally and physically ready to spoil the Tigers’ homecoming at “The Zou.” While Florida might not have had as flashy a game as last week, it was a workman like performance headlined by yet another smothering performance by the defense.
Being away from The Swamp for only the second time this season and seeking revenge for their embarrassment at the hands of the Tigers last season, the Gators continued to play very balanced team football. While the defense struggled on the Tigers’ first drive of the game, allowing Missouri to march quickly down the field and score a field goal, the offense picked them up, scoring the only two offensive touchdowns of the game by either team in the first quarter.
After that, Missouri’s defense did a much better job of slowing down the Gators’ offense. Fortunately, the defense flipped the switch on and played downright nasty the rest of the game. Even on the first drive, it was not as if the Gators allowed a touchdown. Once Missouri had made it inside of the Gators 10-yard line, Florida showed the Tigers exactly what they showed Ole Miss the week before; that the end zone was off limits and shut Drew Lock and the Missouri offense down.
The Best Defense in the Nation tallied three sacks on the night including yet another big play by the former 5-star freshman defensive end CeCe Jefferson. Jefferson’s showing was in the form of a 17-yard loss on an intentional grounding that gave him his sack on the night. He burst through the line and yanked the freshman Lock down by his shoulder pads as Lock threw it into the turf, drawing the penalty.
The most impressive individual play by BDN was Tabor’s pick-six. With the Gators struggling to put Missouri away late in the third, the sophomore cornerback read the eyes of the freshman quarterback and made him pay. Before Lock knew what happened, Tabor jumped the route and took it back the other way 40 yards for the score.
It was yet another case of a quarterback respecting Hargreaves so much as to barely even throw in his direction. Naturally, Lock threw to the opposing side of the field of the All-American cornerback and he fared no better. While his decision was understandable, Jalen Tabor receives far less credit than he deserves playing in a secondary that is loaded with a gaudy amount of talent. But, to Tabor’s credit, he has now returned two interceptions for touchdowns this year. Not a bad start to the year for the former freshman All-American.
Tabor’s interception was one of two interceptions on the night by Florida. Additionally, the Gators managed to avoid the turnover bug yet again this game and propped up their turnover margin to +8 on the season.
Florida’s defense also managed to hold Missouri’s offense (which came into the game with a newfound sense of confidence) to a mere 257 yards and 12 first downs. The most impressive stat for the Gators defense in this game, however, came on Money Downs. When all was said and done, the Tigers were 1-of-14, with a touchdown (Tabor’s pick-six), on third downs. That one third down conversion didn’t even happen until there were only 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter when the Gators were already up 21-3. It’s safe to say Florida took sole ownership of Money Downs just like they took sole ownership of, and a two-game lead in, the East.
Turning their attention to next week, a monumental top-ten clash looms on the horizon. And while it goes without saying, the Gators will have to watch out for LSU’s Heisman candidate running back in Leonard Fournette next week. For the Gators, they would be thrilled to be able to get out of Baton Rouge having allowed the 1,000 yard rusher just 106 yards on the evening like they surrendered to Missouri on Saturday.
- Florida’s defense forced six three-and-outs on the night, including three straight to open the second half.
- Missouri Quarterback Drew Lock went 16-39 passing on the night for 151 yards and two picks as he was overwhelmed by the Gators’ suffocating defense all night.
- The Missouri offense rushed for 4.1 yards a carry on 26 attempts, numbers the Gators are going to need to replicate next week against the best running back in the league.
- Marcus Maye had the Gators other interception on Drew Lock.
- The Gators beat the Missouri Tigers on the road 21-3.