Six turnovers including four return touchdowns – two on special teams – and an inability to get anything going on offense led to one of the worst home losses in school history for the Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) as the Missouri Tigers (5-2, 2-1 SEC) routed their hosts 42-13 on homecoming at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday night.
Missouri, coming off a 34-0 defeat at the hands of Georgia just one week ago, shut out Florida in the first half for the second time UF’s last three games. The Gators opened the contest in an immediate hole – Tigers’ returner Marcus Murphy brought back the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown – and never recovered.
Florida looked to be in trouble again on its first offensive series after redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and junior running back Matt Jones fumbled an exchange, but UF got the ball back almost immediately on an interception by redshirt sophomore defensive back Marcus Maye.
Following consecutive series without significant gain, Driskel was replaced by freshman Treon Harris, who fumbled the ball on a sack, turning it over to Mizzou on the Florida 19-yard line. Four plays later, the Tigers rumbled into the end zone to take a 14-0 lead with 3:50 left in the first quarter.
Mizzou jumped ahead 20-0 by converting a pair of short field goals. The Tigers ended an 18-play, 55-yard drive – converting four third downs on the series – with a 25-yard field goal and turned a Driskel interception into a 33-yard kick.
An 82-yard punt return touchdown by Murphy, followed by a two-point conversion, pushed Missouri ahead of Florida 28-0 early in the third quarter as the Gators’ special teams failed for the second time on the evening.
Consecutive Driskel turnovers led to defensive touchdowns for Mizzou. First, Driskel was stripped when dropping back with his fumble getting returned for a score. On the very next drive, he telegraphed a pass and threw a pick-six that put the Tigers up 42-0 with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
However, the Gators were able to put some points on the board before the third quarter was out. Harris replaced Driskel and led Florida on a nine-play, 63-yard touchdown scoring drive, which included 27 yards from sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor (on five carries), a third-down conversion by Harris and three completed passes. Harris hit senior tight end Tevin Westbrook for 11 yards early in the series, completed a 15-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson on the next play and found Westbrook again for a five-yard touchdown to conclude the drive.
Harris threw an interception on his next possession – UF’s sixth turnover of the night – but was able to rebound and lead a 15-play, 82-yard scoring drive in the game’s final minute. Freshman RB Brandon Powell accounted for 35 yards on the series, and Harris picked up 22 yards with his legs including the three-yard rushing score.
Harris finished 8-for-12 for 98 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing), an interception and a fumble. He also picked up 26 yards on the ground on eight carries with a long of 10 yards.
Robinson led UF’s receivers with four receptions for 48 yards, and Westbrook hauled in three passes for 35 yards and his score.
Missouri scored 24 of its 42 points off turnovers despite being outgained by Florida 283-119 on the evening. The Tigers sacked the Gators’ quarterbacks six times on the evening, one more than the five UF’s offensive line had given up through its first five games.
Florida has started a campaign with a 3-3 record through six games for just the second time in the last 28 seasons and lost its second-straight game against an unranked Southeastern Conference opponent. The Gators will look to regroup during the bye week before taking on its long-time rival in the Florida-Georgia game on Saturday, Nov. 1 in Jacksonville, Florida.