Columbia, MO. — Randy Shannon shook things up in his first week as interim head coach giving Malik Zaire a shot to start his first game for the Florida Gators.
Zaire completed 13-of-19 passes for 158 yards on Saturday before he was pulled with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. The graduate transfer from Notre Dame wasn’t the problem with Florida’s offense on Saturday. Florida was able to move the ball; they just couldn’t punch it into the end zone. Zaire led three drives that had nine or more plays but had to settle for field goals in the red zone.
“At the end of the day it’s about how can we stay on the field and put up points. That’s something that we didn’t do as well as we wanted to,” he said.
Feleipe Franks took over with 7:10 left in the game. He completed passes for 31, 9 and 15 yards before connecting with Lamical Perine for a 16-yard touchdown. It was too little, too late for the Gators and reminiscent of last week when Zaire came in and gave the offense a spark late against Georgia.
“We always have a guy come in the game late and spark us. We need somebody to come in the game and spark us early,” Randy Shannon said after the game. “Last two games we played a guy late in the game and he came and gave us a lift.”
Shannon opened the quarterback competition last week. When he announced that Zaire would start on Thursday he told Franks. The redshirt freshman quarterback reportedly told Shannon that he was the better quarterback. Shannon didn’t have a problem with that attitude. Franks was into the game even when he wasn’t playing. He was in offensive huddles, had a headset on, was talking to his teammates and even went out on to the field to console Brett Heggie after the starting left guard sustained a knee injury and was carted off the field.
Shannon wouldn’t announce a starting quarterback for next week’s game against South Carolina. You can expect another week of competition with a starter to be named prior to the game. Zaire feels like he’s done enough to earn his second start.
“Obviously I want to be able to run the show. I feel comfortable back there. I feel like I give the team the best chance, but I feel like if you don’t feel like that you shouldn’t even be in the game,” he said. “I want to help this team get to a bowl game. I want to help this team finish on a positive note. Through all the things we’ve been through, through all the adversity we’ve been through. From our standpoint, I just want to help this team to do whatever it takes to win a football game next week.”