COLUMBIA, Mo. — New coach, new approach, same result.
Only somehow worse.
A Florida football team that has been faltering over the past month is now in apparent free fall following a second consecutive SEC blowout defeat, this one an embarrassing 45-16 loss to Missouri, which came into Saturday’s game winless in league play.
It is UF’s fourth consecutive loss and the first time since 1971 that the Gators (3-5 overall and 3-4 in the SEC) have given up 40 points or more in consecutive games. UF fell to Georgia 42-7 a week earlier.
“Today’s game wasn’t representative of the University of Florida,” interim head coach Randy Shannon said. “Like I’ve said before, don’t make excuses, fellas. Don’t make excuses. If you’re a Florida Gator, you line up and you play the game that’s supposed to be played at. And we’ve got to coach it.
“I don’t think anybody that comes to this university is going to accept losing. I don’t think that anybody who is going to compete is going to accept losing. It’s our job to make sure those guys don’t accept that and play hard to get out there and have a chance to win a game.”
Shannon said he did not see Saturday’s poor overall performance coming because the players seemed focused throughout the week and had shown a lot of energy and focus on the practice field.
“No. No. Not at all,” he said. “Guys practiced well. They flew around at practice. This morning, walkthrough was very sharp and everything else (was positive). You just don’t know come game day.
“We’re a very young team, but I’m not going to make any excuses for this football team. When you come to this university, even if you’re young, you have to play to a high standard. We’ve got to instill that in those guys that you have to play at a high standard.”
Maybe others should have seen this coming.
It’s been a difficult week for the Gators. They lost their coach (Jim McElwain) and two SEC games by a combined score of 87-23. All of it has taken a toll on the players, sophomore linebacker David Reese said.
“You could say so,” he said when asked if the players have been worn down mentally. “I feel like, I just want to say one thing. We loved every single one of our coaches that’s been through here. It’s unfortunate what’s happened to them. I hate the way we represented our coaches like that today with this game.
“Those guys really care for us and gave us a real good game plan to do what we had to do. It’s sometimes disappointing when everybody doesn’t want to come together and just play for each other. That’s sad to see. We’ve still got a lot to play for. Me personally and our defense, we want to play for those guys. We can’t have appearances like we just had today. That’s unacceptable.”
The Gators were no physical match for a team that was 0-4 in the SEC and has been having all kinds of problems on defense.
UF’s defense was gutted in the running game and gave up big play after big play in the passing game.
Missouri quarterback Drew Lock threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns and running backs Larry Rountree III and Ish Witter combined to rush for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
Florida got a little offensive spark with dual-threat quarterback Malik Zaire getting his first start. He showed good pocket presence and completed some passes down the field, including over the middle, where UF has been reluctant to go.
“The positive thing is we moved the ball,” Zaire said. “You got to see a little bit about what our playmakers can do when they have the ball. And our o-line blocked well, we didn’t have as many penalties this week.
“I just think we brought a little bit more consistency as a group. We played a little more unified as a unit. We were able to get yards and get out of tough situations.
“But it’s about scoring points at the end of the day. And we were in the red zone a lot and didn’t convert like we should of. That’s something we’re going to work on this week and get before South Carolina.”
Zaire did not finish the game. Late in the fourth quarter, he was replaced by former starter Feleipe Franks, who led the Gators on a 71-yard TD drive that culminated with his 16-yard pass to running back Lamical Perine.
Zaire finished with 158 yards passing and Franks 98.
Shannon said he will re-evaluate the quarterback position and decide what happens next between Zaire and Franks after reviewing the tape of the game.
Zaire said he wants to stay in the lineup.
“Obviously, I want to be able to run the show,” he said. “I feel comfortable back there. I feel like I give the team the best chance. I feel like if you don’t feel like that you shouldn’t even be in the game.”
There were some players that seemed almost disinterested in the game Saturday, lending to the lifeless overall performance.
The Tigers saw the opening and took the fight to the Gators, never relenting.
“We like came out here and let them take over us,” junior defensive tackle Khairi Clark said. “We weren’t playing as Gators. As Gators, we’ve got to play every snap in the SEC because we can’t just give anything away.”
Like a week ago in the loss to Georgia, the Gators fell behind big early (28-3 late in the first half) and never recovered. They hurt their own cause by having to settle for Eddy Pinero field goals on three scoring chances, two late in the first half and another early in the third quarter.
While the Gators have been going through tough times, things have definitely turned for the better for the Tigers (4-5 overall), who have won three and a row and are rolling on offense.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “I’m proud of the resolve they’ve shown. We’re making progress in a lot of different areas, and it’s started to show.”
Who: Florida vs. South Carolina
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850