Florida football score, takeaways: No. 10 Gators fight through rust to rout Missouri

By Adam Silverstein
November 1, 2020
Florida football score, takeaways: No. 10 Gators fight through rust to rout Missouri
Football

Image Credit: GatorsFB / Twitter

Despite the lopsided score, it was not always easy for the No. 10 Florida Gators on Saturday night in a 41-17 victory over the Missouri Tigers. In fact, Florida (3-1) had to fight in more ways than one to take down a team in Mizzou (2-2) that brought to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium a strong defense that put up a fight for nearly an entire half.

That’s until the Gators unleashed senior wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who had one of the best efforts of his career and completely turned the game around for his team before halftime. However, before Florida and Mizzou could even get to their locker rooms midway through the game, a fight erupted on the field that may spell trouble for both teams going forward.

In the end, the Gators looked as if they shook off the rust accumulated from two weeks off and 21 days between games while overcoming a significant amount of adversity — including being down eight defensive backs (three starters) and junior kicker Evan McPherson among 14 players unavailable for the game — to put together their most complete performance of the season.

Florida started 0 of 2 on touchdown opportunities in the red zone and was a terrible 4 of 13 on third downs. The offensive line also struggled to protect the pocket for much of the first half, though Mullen later explained that half of the starting unit was unable to practice until midweek. Nevertheless, the Gators found ways to put up points and eventually move the game out of reach for Missouri. “I don’t think we’re as crisp as we want to be, but when you don’t practice for two weeks [and] you have a bunch of guys miss practice during the week, you’re going to be a bit rusty coming out there,” head coach Dan Mullen said after the game.

How exactly did that go down? That’s why we’re here. Let’s take a look at the key takeaways from Florida’s dominant win on Saturday night in The Swamp.

1. The Magician posts a hat trick on Halloween: Right at the end of spooky season, Toney provided a trio of highlights that should have defensive coordinators quaking in their shoes over the rest of the year. Toney’s athleticism was on full display as made the Tigers defense look absolutely foolish on his way to three eye-opening touchdowns. The first score, an 18-yard catch and run where Toney evaded numerous tacklers on his way to the end zone, cracked the dam on a Gators offense that had been stagnant and held without a touchdown over the game’s first 28+ minutes. Moments later, a timely turnover gave Florida the ball again, and Toney caught a 30-yard scoring pass from redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask, posting two touchdowns in just 33 seconds before halftime.

As if that was not enough, Toney posted the first score out the break, stretching the ball outside the left tackle, avoiding stepping out of bounds and somehow bouncing his way into pay dirt. Toney scored three touchdowns in 6:05 of game clock and finished with 83 total yards on seven touches. He was clearly the playmaker who changed the game Saturday night, and while the Gators likely would have won either way, Toney was the one who broke Florida out of its funk and reminded the offense what it is capable of achieving when giving maximum effort.

“You watch his discipline and his understanding of how the plays are being run, how the plays are hitting … you watch how he’s matured and grown into playing within the offense … he plays within the scheme,” Mullen said of Toney. “He sets up runs, he sets up blocks and then he can make special things happen and make you miss and break tackles as well.”

2. Someone had to deliver those balls: The praise for Toney is not to ignore what Trask accomplished as he completed 21 of 36 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns despite frequently being pushed out of the pocket due to Mizzou’s strong pass rush. Trask set an SEC record with 18 touchdowns through his first four games of the season and became the first quarterback in program history to throw 4+ touchdowns in four consecutive games. Trask was also Florida’s leading (willing) rusher, taking nine carries or 47 yards, including an awesome 26-yard scamper.

He not only found Toney but targeted junior tight end Kyle Pitts early and often with five connections for a team-high 81 yards. Wide receivers senior Trevon Grimes and sophomore Justin Shorter also caught touchdowns as Trask completed passes to nine players and targeted two others. Trask did throw a pick six in the game, but it only happened because he was hit while throwing due to a failed protection, and the ball floated in the air.

Freshman QB Anthony Richardson was the surprise backup for Trask on Saturday night, and he saw his first action carrying the ball three times for 15 yards. In a surprise, sophomore Emory Jones entered the game for the final offensive series. Though he was not listed as injured, it is believed that he’s been nursing a wrist and was not available for the game. Jones rushed once for 7 yards, and neither he nor Richardson threw passes.

4. Signs of life for the beleaguered defense: Say what you will about the Gators defense so far in 2020, but what we saw Saturday night at least provides a level of optimism heading into their biggest game of the season. Florida entered the game 101st out of 102 FBS teams on third downs (.587) but held Mizzou to 3 of 15 (.200). It entered allowing an average of 495 yards (95th nationally) and gave up 248, nearly half of which came in garbage time. It also entered allowing 33.3 points per game (69th nationally) and gave up just 11 (not counting a pick six). Florida also forced two turnovers, registered three sacks and picked up six tackles for loss, six QB hurries and six pass breakups. In other words, the defense dominated.

This despite the fact that the Gators started the game without eight defensive backs, including three starters, and saw a replacement starter in junior Trey Dean III on crutches by the end of the night. Senior defensive tackle Kyree Campbell played his first game of the season and made an obvious impact, but redshirt junior defensive end Zachary Carter was ejected at halftime for fighting (more on that later). “When guys are out, there’s a trickle down effect. When guys come back, there’s a trickle up effect,” Mullen said of Campbell’s return.

After the game, Mullen was proud of the defense, saying he would love to see what the unit would look like with 100% of its talent. “I can’t wait until we get to lay a game with a full defense. It kind of seems like we’re playing with a partial defense every game of the season right now,” Mullen said. Florida’s defense has not been at full strength for a single game this season. “They’ve been taking some heat from a lot of people — not from inside our building but from outside our building,” Mullen said earlier, implying that the Gators exorcised some demons on Saturday night. It sure seems like they did. Will that carry over to Florida’s biggest game of the season?

4. Who will be able to go next week? Simply put, player availability will be the key question the Gators must face leading into their rivalry game against the Bulldogs. Florida was down 14 players against Missouri as it continues to recover from a COVID-19 outbreak that affected nearly three-dozen players plus a handful of coaches on the team. In addition to the defensive backs, UF was also missing junior kicker Evan McPherson and a couple key reserves. You can see the full list here. Though it’s likely that most of those players will be cleared, the wonder is whether the outbreak has now been contained.

Another major wrinkle has been thrown into the mix, however, due to a halftime fight between the Gators and Tigers after a late hit on Trask that saw three total players ejected, including Carter. Though Mullen insinuated after the game that he did not expect any more punishment to be handed down by the SEC, video clearly shows other Florida players — and even more Missouri players — throwing punches during the brawl. Whether the SEC acts — and how it acts if it does — will go a long way to determining what UF’s roster looks like against Georgia. Unfortunately, Mullen has refused to provide any availability information during game weeks, so we may be in the dark aside from leaks up until kickoff.

5. Odds and ends: Redshirt junior K Chris Howard went 3 for 3 on field goals, his first career attempts, in place of McPherson … Florida is now 5-5 all-time against Mizzou, including 3-2 in The Swamp … the Gators are 4-1 coming off a loss under Mullen … UF is 18-1 when scoring first, 20-1 when leading after the third quarter, 16-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer and 19-0 when outrushing its opponent under Mullen … Florida is 19-2 against unranked opponents under Mullen … the Gators have scored 24+ points in 19 of 21 games dating back to 2018 … UF has scored 126 offensive touchdowns in 30 games under Mullen after scoring 93 in 38 games from 2015-17 … Florida has scored 168 points through four SEC games, its highest-scoring start in league play since 1996 … the Gators have scored in 402 consecutive games, an NCAA record

Mullen dressed as Darth Vader from “Star Wars” during the locker room celebration and postgame press conference.

6. What’s next? Though the game was delayed one week from its regularly scheduled date, Florida will face Georgia on Nov. 7 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The game will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The Dawgs have a half-game lead on the Gators entering their rivalry showdown as they have played one more game this season. However, Florida can hand Georgia a second loss and own the tiebreaker, taking control of the SEC East with a victory next Saturday.

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