Updated: Nov 10
Fresh off a midseason COVID break, the tenth-ranked Florida Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers in the Swamp 41-17 Halloween night.
Despite the three-week hiatus, the Gators did not have the luxury of playing with a full deck. A total of six players including three starting defensive backs and kicker Evan McPherson were unable to play due to the virus.
In fact, the team’s offense failed to make noise until the final two minutes of the second quarter.
The word on the lips of the commentators early on was “rust”.
Kyle Trask and Co. were stymied by the Tigers’ surprisingly stout defense, and Florida’s offensive line struggled at times to maintain a clean pocket, leading to a Trask interception for a touchdown early in the second quarter, providing Mizzou its lone first half points.
The game remained a defensive struggle throughout the opening 30 minutes until senior wide receiver Kadarius Toney gave the Gators their first third-down conversion of the evening on an athletic touchdown catch-and-run.
Toney seemed to provide the Gators needed. Brenton Cox recovered a botched Missouri handoff less than a minute later. On the very next play, Trask threw touchdown number two to a wide-open Toney to turn a 7-6 deficit into a 20-7 advantage in less than one minute of game time.
Coming out of halftime, the fresh-faced home team maintained its blistering pace by scoring another pair of touchdowns in the third quarter - one from Trevon Grimes and one from Justin Shorter.
The real story of the game, though, was Florida’s throwbacks – and that’s not referring to their blue helmets. While the aforementioned helmets evoked thoughts of the 1960s, the Gators’ defense conjured up memories of the past two decades.
With three weeks to contemplate their performances in the loss to Texas A&M, many Gator fans were curious to see how Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham’s defense would respond. In the first half, the blue-clad “Boys of Old Florida” held Missouri Quarterback Connor Bazelak to a modest 11-of-20 for 77 yards and held the Tigers to one-of-eight on third downs. The Gators ultimately held the Tigers to a total of 248 yards and only allowed 17 points.
The second theme of the night was the tussle between the Tigers and Gators going into the half. Following an apparent late hit on Trask on the final play of the half, benches cleared and punches were thrown. The skirmish resulted in the awarding of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to every player of both squads and the ejection of three players: Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter, Florida linebacker Antwaun Powell, and Missouri’s Tre Williams.
Florida hopes to recapture its defensive magic next week against a top-five Georgia Bulldogs team in a matchup that could determine who represents the SEC East in Atlanta.
Trask finished the game 21 of 36 with 345 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, bringing his total to 18 touchdowns on the season and setting an SEC record for touchdowns in his opening four games.
The Gators reached 522 yards offensively and averaged 7.4 yards per play.
Florida advances to a record of 21-10-1 in blue helmets.
Photo Credit: Jordan Herald/@JordanHerald5/UF Football