FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
When the SEC announced its revamped, conference-only schedule in August, the Gators’ meeting with Missouri had all the makings of a potential trap game, as it was sandwiched between games with LSU and Georgia and the bye week.
When the game finally came to fruition one week later than originally scheduled, it looked even more compelling and dicey than it did in August. Due to a large COVID-19 outbreak, the entire UF team went into quarantine for two weeks and couldn’t do anything other than attend Zoom meetings with coaches and use household objects to stay in shape. Would the Gators play like a team in mid-season form or a sloppy team that looked like they hadn’t played a game in three weeks?
Despite being without 15 players due to COVID-19 and injuries, the Gators (3-1) treated their fans to a 41-17 win over Missouri (2-3) on Halloween night in the Swamp.
Here is our Instant Analysis.
It Was Over When: This game was over when Kadarius Toney decided to take over. He scored on an unbelievable 18-yard catch and run to give the Gators a 13-7 lead with 1:41 to go in the second quarter.
Three plays later, defensive end Zachary Carter generated a nice push and caused a fumbled exchange by Missouri quarterback Connor Bazelak and running back Tyler Badie. Brenton Cox recovered the fumble. Quarterback Kyle Trask found Toney for a 30-yard score down the left seam on the next play.
Toney punctuated UF’s first drive after halftime with a 16-yard rushing score on a jet sweep to extend the lead to 27-7. It was basically over from there.
They Stole the Show: Trask didn’t play otherworldly like he did in the first three games, but he still turned in a great game, completing 21 of 36 throws for 345 yards with four touchdowns. He did a nice job of going through his progressions and buying time for his second and third receivers.
Toney continued to look like the most improved player on the team, running crisp routes, getting upfield and making explosive plays. He caught four passes for 60 yards and two scores. He also added the rushing score.
On defense, freshman safety Rashard Torrence impressed in his first start. He had a nose for the ball, took good angles and made four tackles.
Cox looked much more comfortable in the BUCK position after playing on the strongside in the first three games. He was a constant presence in the Tigers’ backfield and recovered the fumble that allowed Florida to bust the game open.
For Missouri, Jarvis Ware intercepted a Trask pass and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown that gave Missouri a 7-6 lead. Linebacker Devin Nicholson recorded 13 stops.
These Stats Don’t Lie: Florida gained 514 yards of total offense, including 169 on the ground. They averaged 7.2 yards per play. However, they converted just four of 13 third downs and scored touchdowns just one of three trips to the red zone in the first half, which kept the game close.
Florida’s defense turned in by far its best night of work, limiting the Tigers to 248 total yards and 3.9 yards per play. The Tigers converted just three of 15 third downs after the Gators entered the day allowing opponents to convert 61 percent of the time on third and fourth down.
Oh What A Play: With the Gators trailing 7-6, Trask threw a screen pass to Toney on the left side. Toney caught the ball, ran toward the inside and was met by a sea of Missouri defenders. He somehow juked out what seemed like the entire defense, cut back to the outside and sprinted into the end zone for an 18-yard score.
In a career full of breathtaking plays, that might have been Toney’s most impressive one yet.
These Matchups Proved Key: Both defenses dominated early. Missouri’s secondary did a nice job of covering Florida’s top receivers and forcing Trask to go through his reads. They also applied a ton of pressure to Trask in the first half and forced him to throw outside of the pocket a lot. The Gators weren’t able to generate much of a running game either.
In a shocking development, a Gator secondary without three starters won its battle with the Tigers’ receivers and got off the field with regularity.
Kyree Campbell’s season debut at defensive tackle made a huge impact, as Missouri’s running game was nonexistent, and the Gators harassed Bazelak throughout the night, sacking him twice.
Eventually, Florida’s receivers were able to make just enough plays to allow them to pull away.
Up Next: The next game will make or break UF’s season. The No. 10 Gators will travel to Jacksonville to take on No. 5 Georgia, looking to end a three-year losing streak to the Bulldogs and take control of the SEC East.