Florida football vs. Missouri score, takeaways: Time for a change after Gators embarrassed on homecoming

By Adam Silverstein
November 4, 2018
Florida football vs. Missouri score, takeaways: Time for a change after Gators embarrassed on homecoming

Image Credit: Allison Curry / UAA Communications

Another week, another homecoming, another embarrassing result. Just seven days after the Florida Gators were thinking they had an outside chance at the College Football Playoff, suddenly No. 11 Florida will wonder whether it will fall out of the top 25 polls after dropping its second straight game, this one in devastating fashion to the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

The Tigers trounced the Gators 38-17 on Saturday in a game that was never close after the first quarter. Florida failed in every phase of the game and looked as hapless as it has in many similar games over the last few years, especially when you consider it allowed Mizzou to end an 0-9 streak against ranked teams and served as its first SEC win of the season. This after the Gators looked competitive one week ago in their biggest game of the season even if the end result was not indicative of that.

So what went wrong for Florida on Saturday, and where does head coach Dan Mullen go from here? Let’s take a look at what we learned from the loss as the Gators fall to 6-3 (4-3 SEC) on the season.

1. Enough is enough; it’s time for a change: Few have given redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks more chances than this writer, who believed it was unfair to saddle the 2017 season on the shoulders of a first-year starter unexpectedly thrown into action. And when Franks looked like he had turned the corner to at least become a capable signal caller in Year 1 under Mullen, some of his flaws were fairly taken with a grain of salt considering significant improvement cannot be expected overnight. But nine games into Franks’ second season behind center, it has become crystal clear that he simply does not have what it takes to lead Florida football the way it and Mullen need a quarterback to do so.

Franks completed 9-of-22 passes for 84 yards on Saturday with only accomplishments being a gutty 3-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter and the fact that he didn’t turn the ball over in the game. While he has looked capable for a series or a half here and there this season, performances like this are simply unacceptable for a team that should have at least a mid-tier quarterback leading it. Franks either has a fastball or a knuckleball — there’s no in between and certainly a lack of touch on his passes. He continues not to make his progressions and throw to open receivers while forcing the ball into tighter coverage. And most importantly, any time he is pressured even a little he completely crumbles. Consider that Franks put up these stats against the 124th ranked passing defense in the nation coming into the game.

But even worse than continuing to start Franks would be burning the redshirt of freshman Emory Jones, who looks to be the team’s quarterback of the future — at least Mullen hopes. Jones has two games left to play this season to preserve his redshirt, and one of those should be the Gators’ bowl game. Burning his redshirt would make no sense, particularly now that Florida has taken itself out of New Year’s Six bowl consideration. Instead, as he did Saturday, it’s time for Mullen to give the reigns to redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask to at least see what he has in him. Trask completed 10-of-18 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown against Mizzou, and while some of those yards came late while the visitors were playing off the receivers, there was a clear spark when he entered the game. Florida should want to win every game it plays, but it makes the most sense for Trask to get an opportunity next week at South Carolina with Mullen knowing he has Franks in his back pocket to insert at any time.

“Same as it’s been all year,” Mullen said of his plan at quarterback. “We’ll see. We weren’t moving the ball very well. Feleipe missed a throw or two here but he’s also getting hit. We got a lot of guys open and I’m looking, I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then all of a sudden the ball sails and you want to all jump on him and there he is with three guys getting pulled off the top of him. So we’ll see how he performed this week and if there’s a drastic change, we’ll make a change. And if not, we’ll play with who‘s gonna give us the best chance to win.”

2. Third-and-Grantham is real: The Gators tried to get cute when they were winning, attempting to lean into the “third-and-Grantham” moniker and turn it into a positive considering how Florida ended games against Mississippi State and LSU. But ever since, the Gators have been an absolute disaster defensively, particularly on third down. And that goes back to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Florida has allowed a combined 74 points over the last two games, in large part because the defense has been unable to get stops on the so-called “money down.” Missouri converted 11-of-18 third-down attempts on Saturday, and Georgia kept moving on 8-of-14 attempts a week ago. That means UF has allowed its last two opponents to convert 60 percent of their third-down tries (19 of 32) while converting just 26 percent (7 of 27) itself. That’s a recipe for disaster on the gridiron, which is exactly what you’ve seen in the back-to-back losses.

While the Gators at least had an excuse a week ago — their best active defensive back was injured on the first series against the Dawgs and two more were not playing for one reason or another — they were at full strength on Saturday against Drew Lock and Mizzou. Florida got zero pass rush, Grantham’s third-down blitzes didn’t work, and Lock torched the secondary for 250 yards and three touchdowns on 24-of-32 passing; he had just one touchdown in SEC play entering the game. The Tigers outscored the Gators in all four quarters, and Florida has completely topped creating turnover opportunities.

“They were 24-of-32 passing today. How many sacks did we have? Did we have one? So, none. We never tackled him. That’s not real good. It’s a harsh reality for us as a team. It’s a little bit of a reality check of where we are with the offense,” Mullen said. “… We might have a little inflated opinion of ourselves with the talent that’s out on the field. We have got to play all three phases. Follow the plan to win. Be the tougher, more physical team on the field and play as a team if we want to have a chance to win a game in the SEC right now. And that’s a little bit of a reality check for guys. We’ve had some success. We’ve won some tough games. And all of a sudden, you start patting yourself on the back and thinking, boy, we might have some answers. We don’t. Just play hard, play tough. Those games that we won, we played all three phases as a team; played well, executed well, played hard, desperate, every single play, not just because we’re more talented, but number one we played as a team. That’s a little bit of a reality check that we can get and make sure that everybody understands.”

3. That’s it: Really, there’s not much more to say. OK, how about redshirt junior punter Tommy Townsend nearly got ejected for targeting — instead getting an unnecessary roughness call — and was called for a personal foul later. Coupled with a penalty on junior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, Florida managed to turn an awesome punt into Mizzou taking over near midfield. Oh, and junior defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson got hurt, and he cryptically tweeted after the game though claimed he was not looking ahead to the NFL Draft. Also, the end zones were orange. They looked good.

Seriously though, there’s not any more analysis needed than the Gators got boat raced on homecoming. Mullen, after a long press conference, pointed out again that he wants to see a greater investment from fans. The Swamp was relatively empty even before Florida got into trouble, which is worrisome for any game but particularly a homecoming kickoff at 4 p.m. ET. “When we sell out the stadium, we’ll win a championship. It doesn’t go the other way,” he said. That’s not quite right. And if Mullen thinks the fan support is going to be better next week after this debacle with a noon ET kickoff against South Carolina, he’s dreaming.

“That was a disappointing performance by us today, and that’s all on the coaches. We didn’t play very well at all with attention to detail, our sense of urgency, and our execution. That’s all about coaching. We got to do a much better job, and that’s all three phases,” Mullen said. “… Situational football, we were horrific on third down on both sides of the ball. And you go back to penalties, big special teams penalties. No game-changing special teams plays. In fact, negative special teams plays most of the night. Poor execution on offense, and we got out-physicaled on defense. And again, that’s a lot to do with coaching, with us making sure we’re a very physical football team. We have to get that fixed from us.”

Odds and ends: Mizzou outgained Florida 471-323, which looks way closer than it was most of the game; it was a season-high of yards allowed for UF … there were no turnovers in the game … senior WR Josh Hammond caught five passes for 48 yards and a TD with all of his receptions coming from Trask … the Tigers improved to 5-3 all-time against the Gators, 4-3 since joining the SEC … Florida is now 4-5 this decade on homecoming, falling to 25-5 since 1989 and 67-26-2 all-time … this was UF’s second loss to an unranked opponent this season (both at home) … the Gators have scored in 381 consecutive games, an NCAA record


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