5 takeaways from Florida Gators' 41-17 win vs. Missouri
Coming off a three-week layoff due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the usually explosive Florida offense seemed to be sleep-walking through the first half against Missouri, scoring only six points with just a few minutes left before halftime in The Swamp on Saturday night.
Then the Gators found just the right tonic to jolt themselves fully awake.
The senior slot receiver scored two touchdowns in the final 1:41 of the half — one on a magical 18-yard run on a screen pass in which he had multiple cuts and broken tackles and another on a conventional 30-yard reception moments later — and then added a third TD run early in the third quarter to spark the Gators to a 41-17 win over Missouri.
The Gators improve to 3-1 heading into Saturday's SEC East showdown against Georgia.
Here are five takeaways from the UF victory:
Those fightin' Gators
What had been a near-flawless final few minutes in the first half for the Gators ended ugly for both teams. After Kyle Trask was hit high and late on a Hail Mary pass on the final play, the two teams launched into a near brawl, with numerous punches being thrown.
Mullen was especially hot after the hit when the officials did not throw a flag. Along with the punches, there was a great deal of finger-pointing and threats. The coaches and officials managed to separate everyone in a few minutes, getting both teams into their respective locker rooms.
Three players were ejected from the game — Missouri defensive lineman Tre Williams and UF defensive linemen Zachary Carter and Antwuan Powell.
"Absolutely zero got carried over into the second half," Mullen said. "Zero of that carried over postgame. Zero of that carried past that and it just shows the good job of players and coaches on both teams and their ability to settle down. I don’t think either side would say that’s what we wanted to happen. Neither side condones it. It’s an unfortunate situation that happened, but I think it shows the class of the programs to be able to come out and play the second half the way we did.”
Mullen had to be pulled away several times and was so irate by the end of the exchange that he came back out of the tunnel for a rousing curtain call.
“I don’t know why they were running over to our hash,” Mzzou coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “I have no idea what they were yelling about. We’ll take a look at the film and I’m sure we’ll find out more tomorrow when we watch the tape. Film doesn’t lie.”
Toney a real Tiger (killer)
The quick, elusive and ankle-turning Toney not only turned the game around with his two touchdowns late in the first half, he helped put it away with some more magic early in the third quarter — a 16-yard TD run on a jet sweep in which he somehow managed to tip-toe backward into the end zone.
With tight end Kyle Pitts having a relatively quiet night, Toney became to go-to guy — and the winning spark — on the offense.
He's clearly become a complete wide receiver — and amazing playmaker — in his senior season.
"You watch him, you watch how he's matured and grown into playing within the offense, not just give him the ball and I'm just going to run around like crazy," Mullen said. "He plays within the scheme, he sets up runs, he sets up blocks. And then he can make special things happen and make you miss great tackles as well.”
Defense shows up
Even with three starters missing in the secondary for unspecified reasons — cornerback Marco Wilson and safeties Donovan Stiner and Shawn Davis — the maligned Florida defense came up with a performance reminiscent of better days (as in last season).
The Gators did all the things they didn't do earlier in the year. They got off the field on third down, they made big plays, applied steady pressure and produced a big first-half turnover that led to a touchdown.
“I think that on the outside they’ve gotten a lot of criticism. They haven’t gotten a lot of criticism from the inside, from us," Mullen said. " I can’t wait until we get to play a game with a full defense. It kind of seems like we’re playing with a partial defense every game of the season right now. We talk about making sure we have the guys in the right position to make plays. We’ve played some very good offenses throughout the course of the year so far."
Cox starting to deliver
For the first three games of the season, Georgia transfer and former five-star recruit Brenton Cox had been pretty quiet in terms of making plays, and it looked like it might be more of the same for the buck defensive end when he was injured on the game's first offensive play.
But he returned a series later and then started wreaking some of the havoc everyone has been waiting for. He stuffed the Tigers for a 15-yard loss on a reverse and recovered a fumble, both in the second quarter.
And he started bringing the steady pressure that's been missing from the defensive front.
Trask moving on up
Trask had a bad moment in the first half, throwing a pick-six early in the second quarter that gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead. But he went on to have a huge game from there, throwing four touchdown passes.
He now has 18 TD passes in the first four games of the season, setting the SEC record.
It was also the12th consecutive game that Trask has thrown for 200-plus yards, the third-longest streak in school history. The only two in front of him are both Steve Spurrier quarterbacks — Shane Matthews (17 consecutive games of 200-plus yards passing) and Rex Grossman (13).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Who: No. 9 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850