Taming Tigers tough trick for Gators

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Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant should be back in the lineup vs. Gators on Saturday. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

Way back in the summer, back when you thought you might combust if you didn’t find some air conditioning, I put together one of those summer lists that are all the rage, like Matthew McConaughey’s Instagram and Instant Pots (ask your kids).

This was the premise — what are the five most important games for the Florida Gators football team this season?

And one of those teams was Missouri. I caught some major grief for having the Tigers in there (one of four, Towson, didn’t make it) and not Florida State.

The reasoning for Mizzou being in there was that Florida has struggled with these Tigers, losing four of the last six and two in a row by soul-searching scores.

Now that we are waist deep into Missouri week and the Gators need a win to keep hope alive, this Mizzou problem needs a deeper dive.

Why, oh why?

Let’s try to figure this out with some theories.

The Georgia letdown.

That definitely was the case last year. And that’s it. The only other game that followed Georgia was the year before and Florida had just fired its head coach and started Malik Zaire at QB. 

Those Gators never had a chance. 

In the four previous years, the game was played in October. The two Florida wins during this six-game run came before bye weeks. This one is before a bye week.

It’s always so cold.

Nice try. It’s always so nice. But because this is the latest these two teams have played by 13 days (other than the 1966 Sugar Bowl), it’s going to be cold for this one.

The temperature was in single digits Tuesday. It is supposed to warm up to a balmy 48 on Saturday.

So the Gators have to be ready for one of the coldest games they have played in a long time.

But that has nothing to do with why they haven’t played well against Missouri.

Florida always loses the turnover battle.

There were none last year and Missouri won 38-17. Mizzou was plus-1 the year before that and won 45-16. 

On the other hand, Florida turned it over six times in the 2014 loss. The final was 42-13 Tigers. Missouri had 119 yards of offense. So, yes, it was the turnovers.

And the first time the two teams played as SEC opponents in 2012, Missouri had 23 first downs, threw four interceptions and scored seven points.

It’s Drew Lock, dummy.

Not so fast. He was good the last two games against Florida. He was not good the previous two. And he’s not walking through that door.

Florida has been bad on offense against Missouri.

Now, we’re getting somewhere.

Since Missouri joined the SEC (we won’t even get into the problems of getting to Columbia, Mo.), Florida has averaged 15.8 points in the four losses.

Even in the wins it hasn’t always been pretty. 

In 2012, Florida scored 14 points and won. In 2015 — Will Grier’s last game as a Gator — Florida scored 14 offensive points. The big offensive explosion came in 2016 when UF scored 40 points thanks to two pick-sixes and an onside kick TD return.

That’s testimony to Barry Odom’s defense. And it’s no different this year despite Missouri’s inability to win games on the road. The Tigers rank 10th in total defense.

So with all this said, we know that every game is its own game and every team is different. This team has a chance to put a halt to the Missouri problem, even if it’s only for a year.

It’s not that tough a place to play and yet Missouri is unbeaten at home this year. They sit on rocks to watch games there, which is all you need to know.

Maybe some of Florida’s difficulty is that there is no real rivalry and barely any history between the teams.

Maybe it’s difficult for Florida to get up for Missouri. Maybe Missouri has done a better job of coaching in this game over the years (and certainly did last year).

Or maybe we can all shove this into the recycle bin and Kyle Trask and Co. will show everyone how it’s done. 

It would be a welcome change for the Gator Nation.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

10 COMMENTS

  1. You’re onto something with that last one Pat. That “good” Mizzou defense has NEVER played a Gator team with a semi-functional offense and a competent, experienced QB. “Trask and company” are coming to Columbia and that “good” Mizzou defense will have to figure out a way to stop them. Let’s see how this one turns out.

    GO GATORS!!!

  2. Nothing really to do with winning/losing at MO, but I they still feel like we are playing a foreign northern Big 12 team (two missing teams for 10). The SEC needs to trade them for either Louisville, West VA or VA Tech. Eastern teams that would provide real regional rivals for UK an UT.

    • I know this is a fine point, but Missouri did join the Union as a southern state. Mizzou is actually closer to Vandy and Arkansas than the UF is to UGA and UT.

      Regionally, the Tigers and Aggies did belong in the Big 12. However, the Big 12 was Texas, Oklahoma and the Ten Dwarves. Those two big boys didn’t want to share revenue equally with the ten dwarves.

      So, two southern dwarves with big TV markets bailed out of the Big 12. And the SEC, which does share revenue equally, welcomed them with open arms. They needed more games to include in their brand new, BIG $, ESPN SEC Network package.

      So, now the Gators have to play a divisional game in cold weather every other season and I’m thrilled. I live 2 hours from Columbia, MO, so I get to attend a Gator game in person every other season without need to buy plane tickets, rent cars, or book expensive hotel rooms!