5 keys to victory at Missouri


Florida takes on Missouri at 12:21 Saturday.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 18, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.

Florida and Missouri don't have much of a history, but they do have a future together. Because they are both in the SEC East, they will play each other on an annual basis.

The teams have only met twice previously, Missouri winning the infamous (for Florida) 1966 Sugar Bowl 20-18 and Florida winning last year's meeting 14-7. This is Florida's first trip to Faurot Field.

The Tigers opened as a 3-point underdog although Vegas said they would have been favored by a point if not for quarterback James Franklin's injury.

The five things Missouri must do to win this game and go to 7-0 on the season:

1. Make it easy for Maty.

Maty Mauk is a four-star recruit and a redshirt freshman who will be making his first start. He has thrown only six passes in college and will be going up against the SEC's top defense. Missouri would be well-suited to make it as simple as possible, especially because Florida's offense is so anemic. If Mauk can avoid mistakes, that may be all it takes to win.

2. Unleash Michael Sam.

Florida's tackles didn't handle LSU's pass rushers well last week and Sam has emerged as one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He is tied for the SEC lead with six sacks and had a scoop and score on an Aaron Murray fumble in last week's win at Georgia.

3. Keep it going on third down.

The Tigers are a different team on the all-important third-down plays this season. A year ago, with a banged up quarterback and other injuries, they were 102nd in the nation. This year, Missouri is 10th at 51.9 percent. Florida's defense has been good on third down all season, but last week allowed LSU to convert 5-of-9.

4. Don't let Florida start fast.

It's an early morning kickoff and sometimes we see a team that doesn't seem to be quite awake. Florida is at its best when playing from ahead so it's important for Missouri to have some early success and keep the crowd in the game.

5. Punch the Gators in the mouth.

Florida's linemen on both sides of the ball have heard all week from their coaches about how soft they were against LSU, so you have to think they'll be playing with a chip on their shoulders. The best way to deal with that is to knock it off their shoulders. Be physical and back them down.

Florida badly needs a win over a quality team, something that has yet to happen this season. Here are the five things the Gators have to do to make that happen:

1. Open up the offense.

Will Muschamp's conservative offense only works when the Gators are physical and precise. They were neither in Baton Rouge, so why not throw the ball down the field once or twice just to loosen things up? Florida is 101st in the country in passing yards. Of Tyler Murphy's 15 completions against LSU, 11 went for less than 10 yards.

2. Win the line of scrimmage.

Both of them. Florida's lines had bad days last Saturday. The Gators averaged 3.5 yards per play, while LSU averaged 5.8. Coach Les Miles even went away from the passing game that had been LSU's strength because the running game was working so well. Maybe the Gators finally missed Dominique Easley, but if they don't get better on both lines this is going to be a miserable second half of the season.

3. Keep the defense's confidence up.

The Gators have had a swagger on defense all year. It was crippled by the loss of Easley and taken down another notch by LSU's offense. Now, they're facing an offense that has scored 92 points in two conference games. The defense has to play with the confidence it had earlier in the season.

4. Harass Maty Mauk.

Mauk will be getting his first start and looked cool under pressure against Georgia. But it's always different when you know for a week you'll be a starter. Florida has been rushing four and getting pressure, but some early blitzes in this game could force mistakes by an inexperienced quarterback.

5. Protect Murphy this time.

Florida did a terrible job of blocking for Tyler Murphy in Baton Rouge. The Tigers had four sacks and five hurries. Missouri has 17 sacks this year. Keeping Murphy's jersey clean is essential.

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