The Florida Gators battled on the road against No.9 Missouri but came up just short, dropping their sixth game of the season 33-31. Both teams netted over 500 yards in the contest, but a late 4th quarter drive led to a game-winning 30-yard field goal by Missouri kicker Harrison Melvis.
Gator Country provides you with five early takeaways from the contest.
GOOD TEAMS WIN CLOSE GAMES
Good teams find ways to win close games; the Florida Gators are not a good football team. ESPN gave Florida a win probability of 99.9% with just 38 seconds left in the game before Brady Cook converted a 4th and 17 pass to Luther Burden to keep Missouri’s drive alive. This was just one play out of a number of plays that could have affected the outcome of the game, but my point still stands. Florida’s last second losses to Arkansas and Missouri were winnable games that will haunt what would otherwise have been a successful year two under Billy Napier. The Gators are one missed field goal and a 4th and 17 stop away from being 7-4 in 2023. I am not arguing that Florida won’t be able to turn this around, because I think they can. Florida showed plenty of fight tonight with an injured offensive line and a backup QB against an experienced and talented Missouri team. For the most part, Florida hasn’t been able to execute in crunch time in 2023 for a variety of different reasons.
MAX BROWN HELPS THE RUN GAME
Backup QB Max Brown had to enter the game in the third quarter following an injury to starting QB Graham Mertz. Brown adds a different element to the running game that Mertz does not provide due to his lack of athleticism. Florida was able to successfully run the zone / read option in the second half as the edge defenders on Missouri’s defense were forced to respect Brown’s speed and athleticism. Not only did Brown record 42 rushing yards on seven attempts, but the Gators ran for 202.5 yards on 7.5 yards per attempt in the second half.
The Gators have struggled to find a consistent rushing attack this season, but with the likely addition of Brown at QB for Florida’s final game against FSU, the Gators may find more success on the ground. Florida ran for 261 yards in the contest, averaging 6.5 yards per carry against Missouri.
FLORIDA SHOULD HAVE BEEN AGRESSIVE ON THE FINAL DRIVE
I mentioned this as it was happening on Gator Country’s game thread, but I don’t believe playing for a field goal on Florida’s final possession of the game was the correct decision. I understand wanting to chew clock and leave as little time as possible for Missouri’s offense, but leaving more than a minute to the Tigers’ offense trailing just one point is even riskier than attempting to score a touchdown, given the way Florida’s defense has played in the second half of the season. Although Max Brown did fumble an exchange to running back Montrell Johnson earlier in the game, he didn’t put Florida’s offense in any type of trouble when he dropped back to pass as he completed four of his five passes for 56 yards.
Florida’s defense should have still been able to win that game given their circumstances, but I would like to see Florida try to find the endzone in that scenario.
FLORIDA’S DEFENSE DOES BILLY NAPIER NO FAVORS
Florida has lost three straight games where their offense has put up a respectable 36, 35, and 31 points, an average of 34 points per game. The Gators are likely to be a top 40 offensive team after week 11, but they still can’t find the win column despite an impressive 2nd half of the season offensively. Florida’s defense, much like last season, is not doing Billy Napier’s squad any favors. Napier has mentioned before that they have a set number of points they feel like they have to get to in order to win the game. I’m sure Gator Nation cannot wait till those days are over. The Gators allowed over 465 yards of offense for the fifth straight game.
SLOW START OFFENSIVELY PROVES COSTLY
The Gators got going offensively, but not until after halftime. Florida totaled just seven points and 153 yards in the first half. The Gators scored on their opening drive, which marks the 5th time in the last six games that Florida has scored on their opening drive of the game. Mertz’s accuracy issues and several key procedural issues hurt the Gators after that.