Missouri vs. Florida: 10 Things We Learned from the Gators' Win vs. Missouri
The Florida Gators came in an 18-point favorite but just barely survived a scare in the Swamp, 14-7.
The Gators offense continued to struggle just as they had in the two previous games, but the defense stepped up in a big way and held another opponent scoreless in the second half at home.
The defense feasted off of Jame Franklin's inaccurate passing and picked him off four times, including an interception in the end zone with just five seconds remaining on the clock.
Florida tried to be more balanced on offense in the first half but struggled and eventually went back to what has worked and ran the ball successfully in the second half.
There is plenty to learn and take away from a close game like this, so let's take a look at 10 things we learned from Florida's win over the Missouri Tigers.
10. Caleb Sturgis Is Irreplaceable
Caleb Sturgis injured his right ankle in practice this week, and his absence almost came back to haunt the Gators.
Sturgis came out in the first quarter to attempt a field goal but couldn't get the ball high enough and had the kick blocked. After that attempt, Brad Phillips took over the kicking duties full time.
Phillips was 2-of-2 on extra points but missed a field goal with 1:49 left in the game that could have iced it for the Gators.
In a world where college kickers love missing field goals, Sturgis is as steady as they come. Florida needs him to be healthy.
9. Jeff Driskel's Job Is Solidified
Florida's offense has been downright offensive the past three games. The Gators have averaged just 241.6 yards per game in their past three games, and the offense has looked terrible.
If Jeff Driskel's job was ever in question or in jeopardy we can put those thoughts to rest now. With the offense struggling to move the ball for the better part of a month there would have been a switch at some point if we were ever going to see one.
Jeff Driskel is Florida's quarterback; don't expect to see any Steve Spurrier-esque quarterback rotations or a Notre Dame quarterback flip-flop in Gainesville.
8. Florida Would Have Lost This Game a Year Ago
The 2011 Florida Gators would have lost this game.
That's a testament to the kind of job that Will Muschamp has done in just a short time.
Florida came into the game playing without Andre Debose, Xavier Nixon, Solomon Patton and Caleb Sturgis. They lost Jon Halapio and James Wilson to injury during the game.
Florida is a much deeper and a much better team than they were a year ago, and that is thanks to the job that Will Muschamp and the coaching staff have done recruiting and coaching their players.
7. It's Time to Start the Freshman Offensive Linemen
Xavier Nixon and James Wilson are not getting the job done. Both Nixon and Wilson are seniors and are not in Florida's future football plans.
Sitting behind them are two freshmen who should be starting.
D.J. Humphries got the start in place of Nixon and for the most part held his own. Jessamen Dunker has been working on the right side but could make the switch to left guard pretty easily.
Dunker and Humphries are the future of the offensive line, and if they can give you the same production as two seniors can, then it's time to give the young kids a chance.
6. Mike Gillislee Is Back
Since rushing for 146 yards against LSU, Mike Gillislee hasn't surpassed 70 yards in three straight games.
While he only rushed for 68 yards today he eclipsed 100 total yards and scored the game-winning touchdown. Gillislee's 68 yards came on just 16 carries which also put him over four yards per carry for the first time since the LSU game.
Despite Florida's offensive line getting bullied against Missouri's front seven, Gillislee was still able to have a productive game and is a key reason Florida came away with a win.
5. Florida's Offensive Line Is Offensive
The coaching staff praised the offensive line for being the strength of the offense early on in the year.
When was the last time you heard that?
Florida's offensive line has been getting manhandled for the past three games and Florida's offense has suffered because of it.
Yes, facing Jadeveon Clowney, Jarvis Jones and Sheldon Richardson is no easy task but to get beat the way Florida's line has been getting beat is unacceptable.
4. Florida's Defense Gets the Game Ball...Again
The defense picked up the offense, threw them on their back and carried the Gators to a victory against Missouri.
The offense's inability to move the football for most of the game left the defense in some bad spots, but they were able to hold Missouri to just seven points and come away with the win.
Missouri was able to cross midfield six times in the second half, but the defense was able to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard in the second half. Florida's bend-but-don't-break style of defense was effective today, and it is the main reason Florida was able to move to 8-1.
The four interceptions are a season high for Florida, and they couldn't have come at a better time for the Gators.
The defense showed once again that they are one of, if not the, best defenses in the country.
3. Florida's Special Teams Are Keeping Them in Games
Florida's special teams are playing at a high level in every aspect other than punt and kick returns.
By his standard, Kyle Christy had a bad punting day. Christy shanked two punts Saturday—one got a generous bounce and was downed inside the 5-yard line while the other went out of bounds after just 19 yards.
Florida's punt coverage, most notably Loucheiz Purifoy, have been the difference for Florida this year. So many times the Gators offense has stalled out in their own territory, and time after time Christy and the punt team are able to flip the field and give the defense some room to work with.
Purifoy had the best catch of the day on a Christy punt that was downed inside the 5-yard line. Even though he had a couple of shaky punts, Christy still averaged 41.4 yards per punt today and is averaging 46.7 on the season.
2. Florida Runs the Ball as Much as They Do for a Reason
Florida tried to be more balanced Saturday and it didn't work. Why? Because the passing game is nowhere near where it needs to be.
A mixture of a young, at times inaccurate quarterback, wide receivers who struggle to get open and an offensive line that can't stop a mild pass rush combine to make a truly bad passing attack.
Florida runs the ball because it is easier to run block than pass block and Mike Gillislee can carry the load.
In the first half, Florida ran the ball 15 times and passed it 16 times while gaining 106 yards on 31 plays. In the second half, Florida ran the ball 17 times to just seven rushing plays and amassed 150 yards on just 25 plays.
Florida runs the ball because they aren't equipped to attack teams with their passing game.
1. Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard Are the Future on Defense
Dante Fowler earned the start today in place on an injured Lerentee McCray. Fowler, a 6'3", 277-pound freshman, was disruptive all game and didn't look the part of a freshman.
Jonathan Bullard earned his first career sack in the game and finished the game with 1.5 sacks.
These two freshmen are going to be fun for Gator fans to watch in the coming years, and Will Muschamp knows it (h/t Scott Carter).
"Just getting started, folks.'' Muschamp on true freshmen DL Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard.— Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) November 3, 2012