The Florida Gators couldn’t regroup on Saturday as it suffered its second straight loss in a homecoming matchup with Missouri. The Tigers continued what they started last year with a dominant performance to defeat Florida 38-17.
There were few positives to take from the game as the Gators took steps back in all phases.
These are a few of our most notable observations from it.
1. The quarterback controversy is on
Dan Mullen has given Feleipe Franks a very long leash since he handed him the reins as Florida’s starting quarterback. With each mistake Franks made on Saturday, the leash got shorter and shorter.
The redshirt sophomore needed a bounce back game after last week’s struggles against Georgia, but instead, he continued to stray further from the improvements he seemed to have made under the new coaching staff.
Maybe the truth is he is the same guy who stepped on campus three years ago and he will always be that guy. He may have a couple good games and make a big-time throw every now and then, but the other side of him will always come out eventually.
That side was on full display against the Tigers. Florida went three-and-out four times with Franks in the game and punted on seven of nine possessions.
When the Gators can’t run the ball effectively, so much of the playbook is thrown out the window. Franks was incapable of making the throws necessary to keep the offense moving as he finished 9-for-22 with 84 passing yards.
The need for a change became obvious far before a move was made, but with Florida down 35-10 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Mullen finally pulled the trigger.
After last week’s surprising use of Emory Jones, the consensus was that the Gators may choose to burn his redshirt and let him take over for better or worse. Instead, after nearly three years of patiently waiting for a chance, Kyle Trask entered the game.
The crowd roared almost as loud as it had all day.
And just like that, the offense had life again. Trask completed his first three passes in a row for a couple of quick first downs. For the first time, the Gators had a quarterback in the game who could put some touch on the ball.
With Florida driving in Missouri territory, Trask had to convert on 4th and 3 with a slant to Trevon Grimes for 13 yards, and then did it again on 4th and goal at the 7-yard line with some help from a nice catch in the end zone by Josh Hammond.
The Gators marched down the field and came away with their first passing touchdown of the game. That made it a somewhat manageable situation at 35-17 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Tigers used up a good chunk of the final 15 minutes on their next drive and converted a field goal to make a miracle comeback essentially out of reach.
Trask was not perfect by any means, but he completed 10 of 18 pass attempts for 126 yards in his three possessions, and probably should have completed a couple more of those if not for drops by the receivers.
As coaches do, Mullen did not give much insight into his plan at quarterback going into next week following the game. At this point, it is obvious Franks is not the future of this program, and it is relatively useless to continue down that path after everything that unfolded on Saturday.
2. The defense is atrocious
Florida’s defense has been praised all season for being one of the strongest in the SEC, but it’s time to face it, there are some real holes. Both literally and figuratively.
Even with C.J. Henderson and Brad Stewart back in the secondary, Drew Lock exposed the pass defense all game long.
Lock is talented, but Florida made him look like an NFL MVP as he completed 24 of 32 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
On top of that Missouri’s running backs added a couple of rushing touchdowns and 221 yards on the ground.
Florida’s defense is built around pressuring the quarterback and forcing him into bad decisions, and when it couldn’t do that, it crumbled.
For the second week in a row, the Gators were absolutely awful on third down, allowing the Tigers to convert on 11 of 18 tries.
There is no excuse for the train wreck that took place on that field, and Todd Grantham has a lot of work to do.
3. Flashbacks from the dark past
From the moment the team ran out of the tunnel, the game felt like a trip back in time to the last few years of Florida football.
The crowd didn’t have any energy and the same could be said for the Gators. Half the student section was still empty, and it only filled in marginally throughout the first quarter.
That shouldn’t have had any impact on Florida’s performance, but the level of play mirrored a poor turnout.
For the first time since Mullen took over, the frustration from fans could be sensed. Boos came out early in response to Franks’ inability pick the offense up.
From that point on, it was simply a waiting game for when a move would be made.
Uncertainty at quarterback, punt after punt after punt, a defense that seemed to lose its heart—all of it pointed to years’ past.
Florida hasn’t shown many regressions to its former state this season, but in reality, it is essentially made up of the same players who finished 4-7 a year ago. It takes longer than that to rebuild a culture and transform the DNA of a team.