Published: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.
Staff writers Robbie Andreu and Jon McDonald take a closer look at today's game in The Swamp.
Revenge 46 years later?
The Gators and Tigers have played only once before, and it was a memorable game for both schools in the 1966 Sugar Bowl. It came at the end of Steve Spurrier's junior season at UF and the Gators were on a bit of an offensive roll heading into the game. But the game did not unfold the way many were expecting. Missouri jumped all over the Gators, building a 17-0 halftime lead and expanding it to 20-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Most assumed the game was over. Not Spurrier. He started flinging the ball all over Tulane Stadium and the Gators came roaring back. The only problem was that when UF scored its first touchdown (a pass from Spurrier to Jack Harper), head coach Ray Graves went for two instead of kicking the extra point, thinking a 20-8 final would look better than 20-7. The two-point try failed. But Spurrier was far from done. Spurrier scored on a 2-yard run a few minutes later, and again the two-point conversion failed. With only 2:08 to play, Spurrier threw a 21-yard TD strike to Charley Casey, giving the Gators a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion. But, again, it failed. Had the Gators kicked their extra points after each TD, they would have won 21-20. Instead they lost 20-18 despite a record-setting performance by Spurrier, who threw for 352 yards, 198 coming in the fourth quarter.
Tigers know how to take it away
Through the first seven games of the season, the Gators were one of the best teams in the nation taking care of the football. UF had turned it over only four times. But last week, the Gators lost their grip on the football, turning it over a whopping six times in the 17-9 loss to Georgia. Four of those turnovers belonged to quarterback Jeff Driskel (two fumbles, two interceptions). The Missouri defense has to be pumped after watching tape of the UF-Georgia game. The Tigers are the best in the nation when it comes to forcing fumbles. So, there's no doubt they're going to be ripping and stripping today, trying to get the Gators to give up the ball like they did a week ago. “It's something our guys, they better know,” UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “They better have some ball security. These guys are going after it. We've got to do a much better job with turnovers, because that's the thing that ultimately hurt us the other day (against Georgia).”
What happens to speed sweep?
The speed sweep has been one of the Gators' most consistent and effective running plays, with speedy wide receiver Solomon Patton coming in motion, taking the handoff and quickly getting to the edge. But one speed sweep that went wrong — the failed fourth-and-1 attempt in the first half against Georgia — has knocked Patton out of the offense for the rest of the season. He broke his upper arm when he was tackled hard on the sideline after no gain. So, with Patton gone, is the speed sweep gone? Pease says no. “I don't want to phase it out. (Andre) Debose can do it. When Solomon got hurt, that definitely kind of threw a twist on some things for us,” Pease said. Pease said running back/slot receiver Omarius Hines is also capable of running the speed sweep.
1 win vs. 1 loss
Florida and Missouri are having polar opposite seasons as far as SEC records. The Gators suffered their lone loss to UGA last week while Missouri was earning its first SEC win over Kentucky. After Florida, Missouri travels to Tennessee and then to Texas A&M the last week of the season. So, the Tigers may have to settle for a lone conference win in their first season in the league. Meanwhile, with a seventh conference win today, the Gators would equal their total of conference wins in 2010 and 2011. Combined.
Eyes on Athens
The Gators need to be careful to not focus on the game they cannot control more than the one they can. Georgia hosts Ole Miss at 3:30 p.m., but if the Gators don't beat Missouri, the game won't mean as much for Georgia winning the SEC East. A Florida win coupled with a Georgia loss would give the Gators the division. With the Bulldogs favored by two TDs over the Rebels, it might be a long shot. But it would be an even longer shot if UF loses.
Second chance at a first impression
The only other time the Gators and Tigers have met was in the 1966 Sugar Bowl, with Mizzou winning, 20-18. Now, with Missouri in the East, the Gators get a new annual rival. No one knows what this game will come to mean in the years and decades to follow, but it certainly is not unprecedented. Before 1992, Florida did not play Vanderbilt every season. That same year, South Carolina joined the East. The Gators and Gamecocks had played 11 times before '92, but not since 1964. In the past few years, the Florida-South Carolina rivalry has started to heat up because of division title implications. Will it take two decades for the UF-Missouri game to have extra meaning on both sides?
To have and to hold
Before the South Carolina game, Gator players identified members of the Gamecocks as “violators,” meaning they carried the ball away from their body while running with it. This led to UF forcing three game-changing fumbles and routing USC, 44-11. Last week in Jacksonville, the Gators were the violators, coughing up the ball four times en route to an 8-point loss to rival Georgia. Florida will have to take extra care of the ball today against a Missouri D that loves forcing turnovers. Florida's offensive approach could turn even more conservative if players keep turnovers in the back of their minds.
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