Missouri lacks offensive execution in loss to Florida

In a game between two previously high-scoring offenses, the Tigers weren’t able to keep pace.
Missouri QB Connor Bazelak fires a pass during the Tigers' 41-17 loss to Florida in Gainesville, Fla. on Oct. 31, 2020. SEC Media Portal

The saying goes that when teams travel to The Swamp, only Gators get out alive.

But Missouri travelled to Gainesville with confidence. The Tigers had won two games since Florida last played, both in encouraging fashion. However, beating the Gators requires an offense to be firing on all cylinders.

Until Saturday night, the Florida defense was one of the worst in the Southeastern Conference. Teams can score on the Gators, but the question often is whether they can keep pace and out-execute an offense that averages 42.3 points per game.

On Halloween, that Florida offense came to play while Missouri’s didn’t. The Gators out-gained the Tigers 514 yards to 248 as quarterback Kyle Trask threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Kadarius Toney finished with 83 total yards and three touchdowns.

“We didn’t play well enough on the road to give ourselves the opportunity to beat a top 10 team,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said. “There’s no excuse for it. We didn’t play well enough offensively; we weren’t able to control the line of scrimmage.”

In a game with high-scoring potential, Drinkwitz looked to throw the first punch. The Tigers elected to receive the ball but went three-and-out their first possession. The next drive, Missouri drove down the field but left three points on the board after kicker Harrison Mevis missed a 31-yard field goal.

After going two games without a drop, the Tigers had multiple in the first half. Receiver Damon Hazelton, Jr. dropped a pass early, but the biggest one came early in the second quarter when Jalen Knox had what appeared to be a deep touchdown in his hands. Instead of going up 14-6, Missouri punted the ball away a few plays later and wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter.

“We left a lot of stuff out there,” Missouri lineman Case Cook said. “There’s a lot of yards and a lot of plays that we left out there that we can execute better.”

The Missouri defense played well enough throughout the first half to allow their offense to put a drive together and find its offense. Jarvis Ware’s 59-yard pick six gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead they would hold through most of the first half. But the unit was never going to hold Florida's high-powered offense forever. Eventually, the Gators punished the visitor’s lack of execution.

Over the course of three possessions spanning both halves, the Tigers went from holding a 7-6 lead to facing a 27-7 deficit, and from there the game quickly got out of hand.

“If we don’t turn the football over, we have a chance to help our defense and play good football,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re not doing that, and we’re putting our guys in bad positions. Our defense played their butt off in the first half. [The turnovers] shouldn’t happen, so we’ve got to focus on it.”

As pressure began to mount on Missouri’s offense, Bazelak struggled to string positive plays together. The redshirt freshman finished with 208 yards but couldn’t find the end zone for a second consecutive week. An undermanned offensive line allowed three sacks that killed drives while most trick plays weren’t effective. With the increasing deficit, the Tigers’ run game became less and less effective.

“We didn’t make enough plays to capitalize on the opportunities that we had,” Missouri running back Larry Rountree III said. “The fumble that went for a touchdown. We had a missed catch that would have been a touchdown. It wasn’t good enough. We didn’t play to the best of our abilities tonight.”

On Halloween night, the Tigers defense scored as many touchdowns as its offense, which will never be enough to compete with most teams in the SEC, let alone Florida. Missouri needed to play flawlessly on both sides of the ball to have a chance at upsetting a top-ten team, and they didn’t.

They became just another victim of The Swamp.

Edited by Danny Ryerson | dryerson@themaneater.com

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