Mizzou football's Eli Drinkwitz downplays any animosity toward Florida, Dan Mullen ahead of Saturday's showdown

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
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Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz, left, and Florida coach Dan Mullen, right, yell at each other after a fight broke out at the end of the first half in Gainesville last season.

Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz believes any animosity directed at Florida during or after last year's halftime brawl is squashed. 

As the programs meet for the first time since that Halloween 2020 rumble on Saturday afternoon at Faurot Field, Drinkwitz's focus is on getting the Tigers to bowl eligibility with one more win.

Dan Mullen's Gators are also 5-5 and looking to secure a postseason position this weekend. 

Both teams have been coy about the quarterback position. Both Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson could play for Florida, while Drinkwitz didn't announce a starter Tuesday, with Connor Bazelak struggling at the end of the South Carolina game and Brady Cook coming off the bench to guide the final MU drive.

"Last year was last year. I think we put that to bed," Drinkwitz said of any lingering animosity against the Gators. "Both teams issued statements following the game, and I don't think there's anything really to add to that.

"Coach Mullen is a good football coach. Obviously, he's got a really sharp offensive mind and has been very good for a long time on the offensive side of the ball. I think he's been a head coach in this league for 13 years, which is saying a lot, considering there's been several coaches that only lasted two. I have a lot of respect for how he's handled himself as the head football coach and in the way he's developed programs."

More:What channel is Mizzou football vs. Florida Gators? How to watch and stream Missouri's SEC game

Last season's tussle at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was partially instigated by Mullen, as he rushed to the field to confront Missouri defensive lineman Trajan Jeffcoat up close after a late hit to then-Heisman Trophy contender Kyle Trask. 

Mullen was restrained by assistant coaches, stadium security and Florida Highway Patrol officers multiple times. He got into shouting matches with former Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters first and Drinkwitz moments later.

After a few minutes apart, Mullen and Drinkwitz shook hands and met with officials.

Florida coach Dan Mullen, left, and Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz chat at midfield before a game Oct. 31, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla.

Mullen was fined $25,000 and issued a reprimand by the Southeastern Conference, while Drinkwitz wasn't punished. 

Three players were ejected at halftime for their role in the melee: former MU defensive lineman Tre Williams along with the UF duo of Zach Carter and Antwuan Powell. 

Three additional Missouri players were suspended for the first half of the Tigers' next game three weeks later against South Carolina. The only one still in Columbia is linebacker Chad Bailey.

More:Which defensive unit was the best Saturday? Our grades from Mizzou's win over South Carolina

Mullen also downplayed any tension between the head coaches or teams beyond what's routine for two league foes. 

“He’s got some personality," Mullen said of Drinkwitz on Monday. "He has some funny little one-liner stuff like that. I think the first time I met him was when he was a student assistant for Gus Malzahn when he was coaching in high school. I was there recruiting.

"I've got a lot of respect for him. Good guy and I didn’t come out with any needling of him, but I think if I did they would know it’s all in good fun.”

More:A late-game QB switch? What we learned from Mizzou's 31-28 win over South Carolina

Mullen is referencing Drinkwitz's statement about the Gators at SEC Media Days in July.

“I’m praying for snow,” Drinkwitz said at the time. “Dan is going to complain about everything anyway.”

"I made a joke this summer about wanting snow and apparently the snow gods aren't going to cooperate," Drinkwitz said Tuesday. "So I'll keep any more wisecracks to myself."

The Weather Channel confirms Drinkwitz's meteorology research. A high of 59 degrees with partly cloudy skies are expected for Saturday's showdown with no snow currently in the forecast. 

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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