Florida bested in all facets in blowout home loss to Missouri
Missouri Tigers running back Russell Hansbrough (32) runs with the ball as Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (1) and defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. (94) tackle during the first half.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Missouri’s Marcus Murphy started the game with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He started the second half with an 81-yard punt return for a score. The plays in between and after were bad for the Florida Gators, too.
Get the picture?
Whether it was Murphy zipping through Florida’s special teams, or running for his team’s lone TD from scrimmage, or the Gators turning the ball over six times, it was all Mizzou Saturday night at The Swamp, as the Tigers dismantled the Gators 42-13 in a homecoming game that marked one of the lopsided losses in school history.
UF quarterback Jeff Driskel turned the ball over four times. His fumble and interception set up 10 first-half points for the Tigers on their way to a 20-0 lead at intermission. In the second half, Driskel had a sack fumble returned 21 yards for a touchdown and an interception taken back 46 yards by linebacker Darvin Ruise that made the score 42-0.
"Offensively, just abysmal," Gators coach Will Muschamp said. "They didn’t have to do very much and they figured it out pretty quickly."
The slew of miscues for the Gators (3-3, 2-3), allowed the Tigers (5-2, 2-1) — who were blown out 34-0 by Georgia at home to last week — to win an eighth straight game on the road despite just 119 yards of total offense and seven first downs.
"It’s one of those losses wehre you just have to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you were mentally prepared to play this game or if there was anything else you could have done to win this game," senior offensive tackle Max Garcia said. "It was 20-0 [at halftime] and, honestly, it could have been a lot worse."
As for the fans pining for backup Treon Harris, well they got their wish. Harris entered the game on Florida’s third possession and was sacked and fumbled on his third play. Mizzou recovered and scored four plays later on a 5-yard run by Murphy. Harris threw another interception in the fourth period, but also had a 5-yard TD pass to tight end Tevin Westbrook late in the third quarter and a 3-yard run for a score with 26 seconds remaining.
The first UF touchdown averted a shutout and thus kept alive the Gators’ current mark for the longest streak in the nation without being shutout — 328 games, dating to a 16-0 home loss to Auburn on Oct. 29, 1988. The Harris touchdown run placed the final margin of defeat at 29 points, marking the worst SEC home loss by a Florida team since Paul "Bear" Bryant brought No. 2 Alabama to Florida Field in 1979 and left with a 40-0 blowout.
Driskel finished seven of 19 for 50 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and two fumbles. Harris went 8-for-12 for 98 yards, one score, one TD.
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk hit just six of his 18 throws for 20 yards. The Tigers averaged just 3.2 yards on 31 rushing attempts. No receiver had more than 9 yards.
And it was never close.
"It’s very disappointing," sophomore safety Keanu Neal said. "I don’t have much to say about it."
The carnage started instantly.
Murphy took the opening kickoff at his 4, sped to the left side, hit a crease and was never touched, easily out-running the UF coverage into to the north end zone. The Tigers’ 7-0 lead took just 11 seconds to materialize.
The Gators ran two offensive series with Driskel at quarterback. The first ended with a fumbled exchange between Driskel and tailback Matt Jones; the second on a failed fourth-and-10 pass from the Missouri 36-yard line.
On the next Florida series, Harris, the true freshman from Miami, replaced Driskel. He fumbled on his fifth snap when sacked on a third-and-9. The Tigers recovered and scored four players later on a 5-yard run by Murphy.
Harris’ second series was a three-and-out and Mizzou’s ensuing possession was its most productive of the game: an 18-play march, but only for 55 yards and capped by a 25-yard Andrew Baggett field with 8:39 to go in the second quarter. It was 17-0.
The Gators went back to Driskel in the second quarter. On his first play, he was hit trying to throw a deep sideline route. The ball fluttered high and straight down the middle of the field where safety Braylon Webb caught it and returned the interception 37 yards to the UF 5.
The Tigers, after a tackle for loss and delay penalty, settled for a 34-yard field goal from Baggett to make it 20-0, which was where it stood at the break.
When UF was forced to punt to start the second half, Murphy weaved through the Gators for his 81-yard touchdown, with the Tigers adding a two-point conversion for a 28-0 margin. And here’s the rub: Missouri was in "safe," which means they weren’t trying to return the punt.
"I just caught the ball, had a lot of open room, made a couple moves and the guys made good blocks," Murphy said. "I looked back and I was clear."
As for Florida’s next two series?
The first was a sack of Driskel and 21-yard fumble return by defensive end Markus Golden; the second was a 46-yard interception return of a Driskel pass by linebacker Darvin Ruise that swelled the lead to 42-0 — the largest deficit for the home team in Gainesville in 44 years.
"It falls on my shoulders," said Muschamp, whose team has an open this week. "Looking around right now, we’ve got to get back and get our guys dialed back in."